Pakistan joins Russia-China massive Caucasus 2020 military exercises
The “Caucasus 2020” drills deploy wheeled vehicles and light weaponry to be flown to out by China’s latest transport aircraft.
In a massive display with hundreds of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, fighter jets and a flotilla of warships, the exercises will continue until 26 September and focus on defensive tactics, encirclement and battlefield control and command, according to a statement by the Russian Defence Ministry.
Some 80,000 troops are expected to be involved in the manoeuvres. But Moscow says that the number of frontline soldiers does not exceed 13,000, so it is not obliged to invite observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as stipulated by the 2011 cornerstone Vienna Document that defined the scope of military exercises on European soil.
The action takes place in Russia’s Southern Military District and in the Black- and Caspian seas, where warships of Iran’s navy will take part.
Rockets launched from a S-400 missile system at the Ashuluk military base in Southern Russia during the military drills, along with ex-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.
The exercises have special meaning for China-Russia ties “at this important moment when the whole world is fighting the pandemic,” according to Russia’s Defence Ministry.
Since establishing a “comprehensive strategic partnership" two decades ago, China and Russia have cooperated increasingly closely on military matters and diplomacy, largely to counter US influence. Their armies regularly hold joint exercises and they support each other at the United Nations over issues including Syria and North Korea.
These exercises coincide with the “Slavic Brotherhood” drills, a series of operations initiated in 2015, hosted alternately by Russia, Belarus and Serbia. This year they take place at the Brest training grounds near the border of Russia.
But this time, Serbia, a candidate for membership of the EU, didn’t want to get caught in the crossfire. According to the Russian Tass News Agency, “Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin announced that the European Union demanded that Belgrade cancel the upcoming drills in Belarus,” and the Serbian government decided to freeze all military drills with other countries for six months.
Compared to other global powers, Russia’s military expenditure is still relatively modest. In 2019, the US spent over 11 times more than Russia on arms, and China four times as much. But compared to the largest military spenders in Western Europe – France, Germany and the UK, Russia spent about 30 percent more.