By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
Next month’s Vostok 2018 military exercise in eastern Russia is ostensibly Russia’s largest war game since 1981. And now, it will get a further boost by the communist Chinese. China’s Defense Ministry announced yesterday that they will send 3,200 troops from the People’s Liberation Army to join over 100,000 Russians in exercises from September 11 to 15. They will bring with them at least 900 tanks and 30 aircraft. As Breitbart points out, if Russia’s boast of the biggest exercise since the Cold War is accurate, over 1,500 Russian tanks and 120 aircraft will also be involved. I consider the joining of Russian and Chinese militaries to be the stuff of nuclear nightmares.
Obviously, this is a communist show of force to ignite fear in the hearts of Westerners. And in an echo of Russia’s huge Cold War exercises that included partners from Warsaw Pact countries, Mongolia is sending a small force to also get in on the fun. Most of the original members of the Warsaw Pact will be warily watching Vostok 2018. There will be more than a little fear to go around on this event. It’s no coincidence that this week marked the 50th anniversary of the Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.
“Despite furious Western attempts to isolate the Kremlin, countries still want to collaborate with Russia. By arms sales and cooperation, Russia is using its military strength to increase its geopolitical presence in the world,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blustered. Both Russia and China are flexing their military might and Xi is itching to give the new and improved People’s Liberation Army a field test.
Shoigu described the upcoming maneuvers as “the largest military exercise since 1981… unprecedented in geography and the number of military units taking part.” Zvezda, a TV channel run by his ministry, said the exercises would mirror the style of those high-Soviet war games: “The 1981 drills were also wide in scope and included foreign partners … from the Warsaw Pact countries.”
Both China and Russia have dumped tons of money into beefing up and modernizing their militaries. China is eager to link arms with Russia and put on a more menacing display than either Moscow or Beijing could manage on their own according to Beijing-based military observer Zhou Chenming:
“China also wants to show its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is facing various diplomatic challenges, especially criticism from the US Secretary of State [Mike Pompeo] over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea,” Zhou said.
He said the site chosen for the war games was deliberate.
“Putin wants to use the Russian military’s war games with the PLA to show its military muscle, but he doesn’t want to irritate the United States too much and raise the possibility of a misjudgment by the Trump administration, so he chose the less sensitive Trans-Baikal region in the Far East, far from US allies in Europe,” Zhou said.
Song Zhongping, another analyst from Hong Kong, said China would send its most elite troops to Vostok 2018 for battlefield combat training to supplement the counter-terrorism and anti-piracy drills they have received. Song indicated that China and Russia are both looking to send a carefully calibrated message of impressive, but not quite provocative, strength to Washington. Message received although I would certainly call it provocative. CNN is reporting that the dates for the Vostok exercise overlap with the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, an event hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and one which Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend.
Make no mistake, this is a major geopolitical shift and not a good one. I have warned for years that Russia, China, Iran and North Korea would join forces against the West and here we are.
From the Independent:
“After Ukraine, Russia decided China was no longer a threat – certainly not in the next 15 to 20 years,” says Mr. Gabuev. “Good relations with China are now a priority. Who else can promise billions of dollars to banks under US sanctions? China has done that with VEB. Japan, an ally of the US, certainly can’t.”
Senior Russian lawmakers have meanwhile made little secret as to who they consider the target audience of Vostok 2018 to be. Speaking to Zvezda channel, Frants Klintsevich, member of the Defence and Security Committee in Russia’s upper house, said the coordinated exercises were a signal to the United States.
“They were once very happy that our units, divisions, and personnel were unpracticed and unable to collaborate,” he said. “Times have changed.”
They certainly have.
One Pentagon official said the Vostok war games will be closely watched by U.S. intelligence agencies because they are expected to include the simulated use of nuclear weapons. “It’s their strategic messaging,” the official said of both Russia and China. “For nearly 20 years Vostok has been the Russian proving exercise for developing its new ‘escalate to de-escalate’ tactical nuclear doctrine involving the use of new, very small nuclear weapons fired mainly by artillery,” said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
The Pentagon is very concerned over Russia’s new doctrine of escalating to small nuclear weapons in the event of a military confrontation. This has led to the U.S. developing its own arsenal of smaller nuclear weapons. China is also developing new, small nuclear weapons. Both China and Russia are working to improve their ability to employ ground, naval, and air forces in joint operations over both short and long distances.
The exercises will be held in the Russian Far East and Siberia. The Chinese said the exercises will be centered at Russia’s Tsugol training range in the Trans-Baikal region, located north of Mongolia’s eastern border with Russia. The Chinese strategic bombers that will be involved in these games conducted patrols in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait in July as part of Russia-hosted drills. It was the first joint strategic exercise by Beijing with a foreign air force.
All of this is why President Trump is pouring billions into our military to restore and modernize it. And fast. Russian military forces in the eastern part of the country were placed on high alert on Monday ahead of the Vostok-18 exercises. The alert was a five-day “snap inspection” in preparation for the upcoming international exercise, said Shoigu, the Russian defense minister. China and Russia are aligning militarily and fiscally to confront the United States and the West. It’s coming, don’t fool yourselves into thinking it’s not.
On a related note, amid concerns over North Korea, federal emergency managers are updating disaster plans to account for large nuclear detonations over the 60 largest US cities, according to a U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
I’ll leave you with news from Buzzfeed on this topic – it shows just how serious all of this is:
The shift away from planning for small nuclear devices that could be deployed by terrorists toward thermonuclear blasts arranged by “state actors” was discussed on Thursday at a two-day National Academies of Sciences workshop for public health and emergency response officials held at its headquarters across the street from the US State Department.
“We are looking at 100 kiloton to 1,000 kiloton detonations,” chief of FEMA’s chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear branch Luis Garcia told BuzzFeed News. The agency’s current “nuclear detonation” guidance for emergency planners, first released in 2010, had looked at 1 to 10 kiloton blasts — smaller than the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs that killed more than 200,000 people at the end of World War II. Those smaller size detonations had seemed more reasonable after 9/11, with high concerns about an improvised terrorist bomb.
But last year North Korea tested an apparent thermonuclear bomb with a surprisingly large estimated blast size of 250 kilotons, a “city buster” much bigger than past test blasts and nearly the size of current US intercontinental ballistic missile warheads. The test blast kicked off a new era of nuclear anxiety in the US.
“The North Koreans have really changed the calculus,” Cham Dallas of the Institute for Disaster Management at the University of Georgia told workshop participants. “We really have to look at thermonuclear now.”
Dallas presented “speculative” analyses of a nuclear detonations in several cities — including New York and Washington, DC — at the workshop, suggesting that a thermonuclear blast roughly doubles the hundreds of thousands of dead and many more wounded (a 1979 analysis of a 1,000 kiloton blast in Detroit estimated 220,000 deaths, for example) compared to the atomic bomb blasts. They also cause many more burn injuries and larger fallout clouds that travel farther away.
The updated FEMA guidance would be for the 60 largest urban areas in the US and will rely on newer detonation models created by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. These models take into account weather patterns that direct and distort weapon clouds, as well as the shelter provided by concrete structures. “A 10 times larger [explosion] yield does not make things 10 times worse,” LLNL’s Brooke Buddemeier said at the workshop. People remaining in shelters in the hours and days after a blast greatly lower their chances of getting radiation sickness.
The new FEMA plan will also have to consider modern contingencies such as cyberweapons striking power plants and cell phone signals before a blast, or a nuclear blackmail scenario where a single bomb is detonated followed by threats to set off more unless demands are met.
In response to an audience question, Garcia said the agency has also considered scenarios where a nuclear bomb, a cyber attack, a coordinated electromagnetic pulse, and biological weapons all hit the US at the same time.
Emphasis mine on the last two paragraphs. Our enemies are preparing and we need to as well. The Vostok 2018 military exercise should be a wakeup call to all of us.