By Megan Keller, thehill.com
Russia on Tuesday will begin its largest military drill in almost 40 years, according to the Kremlin.
The Vostok 2018 drill will include almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 vehicles and up to 80 ships, Russian officials told NBC News.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month that the drills were necessary to make sure that Russia can defend itself in an increasingly contentious international situation.
“The country’s ability to defend itself in the current internationals situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly towards our country, means [the exercise is justified],” Peskov said.
Tensions between the West and Russia have increased over Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections, as well as the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Great Britain — an act London has blamed on the Kremlin.
Chinese and Mongolian military elements will also be involved in the exercise, drilling side-by-side with Russian forces, Russian officials told NBC News.
Peskov said that China’s participation in the exercises demonstrated that the two countries are cooperating in all areas, when asked if China’s involvement was a step toward a greater alliance with Russia.
Though Vostok-18’s active phase has yet to begin, the exercises have already caused some stir when American jets intercepted two Russian nuclear-capable bombers near Alaska Saturday.
Defense officials emphasized to the Washington Free Beacon that the interception coincided with Vostok-18, which began in late August.