2018, The Year in which Russia Boosted its Military Visibility

After conducting the Sochi Olympic games and Football World Cup, Russia will add to its soft power investment a touch of hard power. From August 21 to August 26, the city of Kubinka, Moscow Oblast, is hosting the international military-technical forum ‘Army-2018.’

According to Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, the expo, taking place in the Patriot Expo Center, displays more than 26,000 exhibits. In all, nine countries are hosting national pavilions ther: India, Belarus, Slovakia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Iran, China, Pakistan, and Turkey. Belarus alone has brought more than a hundred products, many never before presented to the public.

One of the key discussions at the Army-2018 forum deals with digital technologies, including artificial intelligence. That is why military experts, public figures, leading scientists and designers are to take part in several scientific and business events organized within the expo.

Among the much-awaited innovations are the Su-57, Kinzhal hypersonic weapon and the Armata battle tank. Robotic systems and a military exoskeleton will also be revealing their abilities. The exoskeleton will help soldiers to carry more weight (50 kg more) and has already been tested in the field, as have the majority of the innovations being presented. Indeed, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that many weapons displayed were tested during the Syrian campaign.

President Vladimir Putin said he hopes the forum will serve as a platform for international military cooperation.

The international military-technical forum Army-2018 is another opportunity for the Russian Federation to show its ability to organize global events, and to be seen again as leader in the field of military innovations. But innovation without strategy is pointless, therefore, Russia will also conduct a huge war game in September.

Between September 11 and 15, Russia will organize the Vostok 2018 (East-2018) exercises which are expected to be remarkable. First, because Russia has moved into high gear to make this event one of the biggest war games in the past four decades, but also because for the first time, China will join the game.

Chinese authorities will send 3,200 soldiers, 900 tanks and 30 jets to the maneuvers. Mongolia will also take part in the game. In total, more than 100,000 servicemen will contribute to the Vostok exercises.

These exercises raise concerns for some Russia watchers, who accuse the Federation of making the world a more dangerous place. Indeed, Russia still backs separatists in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova as it keeps control on Crimea Peninsula after its illegal annexation.

Yet, some argue that NATO is playing the same game. The organization still conducts military exercises at the Russian borders. In June, 19 countries took part in the ‘Saber Strike’ exercise in the Baltic States. On August 1, the Noble Partner exercise launched in Georgia gathering more than 3,000 troops. On August 20, Latvia set up the biggest military drill in its recent history. It seems that each side adds fuel to flame.

However, the Vostok 2018 exercises is not to be observed closely for its scale, but for the close relations between Russia and China- closer than ever.

By Antoine Dewaest

23 August 2018 19:05