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COMMENT: Russian Dominance? The Clenching Of A New Fist Of World Power

"Russia and China are filling a global vacuum caused by Trumpism and new and restricted by NATO and the further inability of the UN to act...

Russia's latest military exercise is "an example of ambitions and intentions," writes our Defence Analyst Christopher Lee (Picture: Russian defence ministry).

Vostok-18 is the biggest focus of US-led Western Elint and Humint  - Electronic and Human Intelligence gathering - in decades.

It’s as big as any intelligence gathering operation we’ve seen since medium-range missile deployments of the early 1970s and the chaos and intentions of the late 80s and early 90s that concluded with the revolution and instabilities that accompanied the end of the Soviet Union.

By itself, Vostok-18 is nothing out of the ordinary.

Vostok, the Russian word for East, is simply the annual major Russian exercise in Siberia, the East of Russia. Zapad, the Russian for West, was the same on the borders of Western Europe.

At one time, Western defence analysts used to think the Soviet Union would run one of these exercises and instead of ending on the third or fourth day, the Soviet Guards Shock Armies would keep coming: Channel ports in four days and then surrender or nuclear release.

For many of us, learning the trade of warfare in the period, it was nothing more than Orange Forces versus Blue Forces and the wash-up more worthwhile than the real thing.

Vostok-18 as well advertised is about 300,000 Russians, 3,200 Chinese, 1,000 aircraft and 80 ships from the powerful fleet and the highly trained and long-reaching Russian Tikiflot - the Pacific Fleet.

What are they doing? Seeing if all these forces scattered across 11 time zones that is modern Russia can be gathered and then, without mishap, deployed.

The Western near earth observation assets plus the mostly ground-based analysis will be watching to see if it works.

As an example: how good is air-to-air refuelling for long range deployment? If a squadron misses its joining times for refuelling in the race track, what do those behind do? Can the circuit reform? Can diversionary airfields handle an unplanned arrival?

Are counter terrorist surprise stages written in? And if so, does what happen suggest latest Russian thinking in terrorist threats able to infiltrate this level of security - and indeed how good is the level for such a diverse operation?

This is the hardware intelligence: how good are they and could we, in the West handle them if it came to gloves off? (Picture: Russian defence ministry).

There is a harder intelligence screen to read.

In separate efforts, both Russia and China are increasing their global power positions faster than ever before. 

They are doing so at a time when the United States is refusing its grip on the economic and military elements that since the end of the Second World War have allowed Western control over most of the non-aligned world. 

Changes in global military spending in areas to support world denomination make scary reading at, for example, NATO headquarters.

In the past decade, China has become the biggest world spender on weapons.

Russia is second, India third, South Korea fourth, Saudi Arabia fifth, Germany sixth, France seventh, Japan eighth, UK ninth and tenth the US.

China, apart from big ship construction, is spending more than ever on command systems including the ability to deploy thousands of miles away command systems that hit the ground, set up and take control (Picture: Chinese Ministry of Defence).

The Chinese and maybe even the Russians have somewhere to go to guarantee efficiency. What they have managed to do is show intentions and they straddled the world.

It is not coincidental that one of the most important economic conferences between China and Russia is going on at the same time as Vostok-18. It’s not in the exercise. It’s real.

The world has only to look and the Sino-Russian ambition for world influence and, in some areas, control, is not an illusion.

It may not be a joint effort, but both are buying into and then protecting and then holding debts - the most powerful way to controlling another’s economy - without getting in each other's way.

Vostok-18 is an example of ambitions and intentions. Russia and China are filling a global vacuum caused by Trumpism and new and restricted by NATO and the further inability of the UN to act to defend the weakness.

China and Russia are the two most powerful nations with permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. Nothing goes by unless they say so.

Vostok-18 is about what is possible. Americans are being forced to check it out.

The rest of NATO fear Washington no longer knows what to look for.

Christopher Lee is the Forces Radio, BFBS Defence Analyst. He can be heard every week on the only radio programme devoted to discussing matters of defence and security, Sitrep. To listen head here, to download click here.