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Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the Vostok-2022 war games that Russia is hosting in coordination with China and other Moscow-allied nations, reports said Friday.
According to Russia state owned broadcasting network RT, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Putin will visit the active phase of the military drills on Sept. 6.
The trip will come ahead of his impending travel plans to Central Asia in mid-September, when he may meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other nation’s leaders for a regional summit.
“He will work in Vladivostok itself,” Peskov said, referring to an area along the Sea of Japan and just north of North Korea. “The strategic command and staff exercises of the armed forces Vostok-2022 begin there.”
Russia’s defense ministry said this week that the exercises will be held Sept. 1-7 in several locations across Russia’s Far East.
The drills will involve more than 50,000 troops and participation from several former Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
The exercises will take place at seven different firing ranges and utilize over 5,000 weapons units, 140 aircraft and 60 warships.
The massive military drills signify not only an expanding relationship between Russia and China amid heightened tensions with the U.S., but are intended to demonstrate Russia’s ability to send tens of thousands of troops to engage in military drills amid its war in Ukraine, one expert told Fox News.
“It’s a strategic messaging campaign,” former intelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Rebekah Koffler said, adding it signifies “business as usual for Russia, despite the fact that war is raging on.”
The Russia expert said Putin is letting Western nations know that Moscow is not as isolated as the U.S. and its allies would like to think amid its war in Ukraine.
“This is a multi-lateral war-game with China having 2,000 troops participating – plus 12 other countries, including Syria, and possibly India,” she added.
Koffler said Putin could be planning some sort of stunt to “surprise” the U.S. and Western allies, like a simulated “nuclear weapons release.”
The former DIA intelligence officer pointed to the 2010 military exercises when Russian forces simulated a tactical nuclear strike against an invading force.
The 2018 exercises saw China’s first ever participation in the coordinated trainings, which were presided over by Putin and Xi during live-fire drills.
“These sorts of things are prone for misunderstanding, miscalculation and unintended escalation, especially during an active conflict as the relations between both Russia and the U.S., and China and the U.S. are extremely tense,” she said.
Koffler pointed out that though this year’s drills are much smaller than in previous years, she warned, “We are in a very dangerous zone.”
“Both Russia and China are behaving recklessly, and they have no respect for the current U.S. administration,” she added.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said this week that as part of the coordinated training operations, the Russian and Chinese navies will “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity and support for ground troops in littoral areas” in the Sea of Japan.
The naval exercises come as Western defense officials are increasingly concerned by China’s aggressive behavior directed at Taiwan.
It remains unclear if Xi will be officially be traveling to the regional conference to meet with Putin, but reports last month suggested the Chinese president was considering the trip following Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei earlier in the month – which sparked outcry from Beijing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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