But this is not a military drill or combat training operation — it’s a spectator sport.
The annual International Army Games involve 28 mostly non-NATO countries battling it out in dozens of competitions over two weeks to prove which nation has the most military might.
Russia always comes out on top.
The Russian team took first place in the medals table after Saturday’s final day, preserving a 100% record of victory since the games began in 2015. Kazakhstan and China took second and third place, with Iran and Venezuela also in the top 10.
Sending a message
As the US prepares to start its next round of joint military drills with South Korea, this showcase serves as a reminder of Russia’s own allies and highlights that western efforts to isolate Russia have largely failed.
It also sends a message to North Korea, with which Russia shares a 17-kilometer border in Russia’s far eastern corner, and bolsters patriotic pride at a time when relations between the US and Russia are at their most frosty since the Cold War.
“This is just the showcase of our strength. Don’t touch us and we won’t touch anyone,” one male spectator told CNN.
Greece, which took part in one of the 28 categories, is the only NATO country to represented. But Russia insists that other NATO countries are welcome.
“We have sent the invitations to 78 countries, including NATO countries,” Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov said, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement.
The main event of the games is the tank biathlon — a relay race of speed and accuracy, where teams in color-coded tanks navigate a 5-kilometer course of obstacles and fire live artillery rounds at targets. Visiting countries had the choice to bring their own tanks — as China did — or use Russian T-72B3 tanks.
State broadcasters provide live coverage of the tank event across Russia. The finals were also attended by thousands of spectators, along with dignitaries including Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, who awarded the trophies…