MOSCOW — Russia's military forces in the country's east were put on high alert Monday ahead of massive war games that also involve China and Mongolia, the largest show of power in nearly 40 years, the Russian defense minister said.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the five days of military drills will pave the way for the Vostok (East) 2018 military exercise. Shoigu said those maneuvers, set for next month, will be the largest since the massive Soviet war games in 1981.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said President Vladimir Putin could attend the exercise.
Speaking to the top Russian military brass, Shoigu said army, air force and navy units will take part in the exercise that will be held across the Far East and Siberia. He added that military units from China and Mongolia will also take part.
As part of a smaller, separate military exercise this week under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security group dominated by Moscow and Beijing, Chinese warplanes landed Monday at a Russian air base in the Chelyabinsk region in the Ural Mountains.
The Russian military has increased both the scope and frequency of its maneuvers amid tensions with the West. It also has expanded military ties with China.
Moscow and Beijing have conducted a series of joint military maneuvers, including exercises in the South China Sea and navy drills in the Baltics last summer.
The two countries have forged what they described as a "strategic partnership," expressing their shared opposition to the "unipolar" world — the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.