Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Beijing Commentators Not Impressed by Russia’s Vostok-2018 Exercise

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 25 – The Vostok-2018 exercise, launched with such pomp and advertised as the largest Russian military exercise since Soviet times, has ended, with even Russian descriptions less effusive and elaborate than they were at its beginning. (Cf. https://vpk-news.ru/articles/45198.)

As they got under way, it became obvious to Moscow analysts at least that the maneuvers would not be as large or as impressive as the Kremlin and its controlled media suggested (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/09/moscows-much-ballyhooed-vostok-2018.html). And the exercise has passed with less attention than its advance notice would have led one to expect.

But the most important coverage of the exercise may have come from Chinese media outlets who have been anything but impressed with what Moscow did, an assessment that should be taken seriously because Chinese troops took part and thus could see at firsthand what the Russian military was up to.

A Russian blogger whose observations have been repeated by Novyye izvestiya today notes that the Chinese “love to discuss the shortcomings of their northern neighbors” and thus it is no surprise that for them “’Vostok-2018’ became not so much a triumph of the Russian army … as a demonstration of its shortcomings” (https://zloy-odessit.livejournal.com/2513653.html, repeated in newizv.ru/news/world/25-09-2018/kitayskie-smi-vysmeyali-taktiku-rossiyskih-voennyh-na-ucheniyah-vostok-2018).

“Numerous Chinese state media outlets including even CCTV devoted attention to the fact that their Russian colleagues in the course of the exercise used” exactly the same tactics that Soviet commanders had used 37 years ago, an indication that Russian operational art has not advanced since then.

They also pointed to the presence of outdated military equipment in many areas, although they acknowledged that the Russians did make use of some of their most advanced tanks when acting as the attacking force, the blogger says.  But the Chinese also suggested that their equipment was better than the Russians in both cases.

That is especially the case regarding maneuverability.  “Chinese experts noted,” he says, “that if Russia were to apply similar tactics against average brigades of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army, its losses would be colossal.” 

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