Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu expressed his amazement at the closing ceremony of the 2018 International Army Games that was ended with a splendid air show and fireworks Saturday. The annual competition that was first started by Russia in 2015 has been rapidly expanding, now being called “the military version of the Olympics.”
The fourth edition kicked off on July 28 across seven countries, not only Russia and China, but also Kazakhstan, Belarus, Iran, the Azerbaijani Republic, and Armenia, and was participated by 189 teams from 32 countries. Six countries, namely Algeria, Vietnam, Sudan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and the Philippines, newly joined the games this year, and even geopolitical rivals such as India and Pakistan, and Israel and Iran competed side by side. Russia finished first overall with 19 gold, 5 silver, and 2 bronze medals.
“The Military Olympics” has 28 different disciplines, including a “tank biathlon” held in Alabino in the Moscow region from the opening day to the closing day. In the tank biathlon, which is considered the highlight of the annual competition, teams should race in their T-72 tanks for three to five kilometers four times, jumping hurdles and shooting targets. A Russian team won the event this year.
The “Aviadarts” competition is also popular where pilots maneuver their fighter jets to drop a bomb at a target on the ground with the velocity of 500 to 700 kilometers per hour at an altitude of 200 to 2,500 kilometers. Events where participants cross the river by buoy mooring and climb a mountain, as well as a sniper competition, a service dog race and a field kitchen cook-off took place.
However, not many are seeing the contest as a pure military version of the sports festival. Russia and China have sent the largest number of teams to the competition. Moscow extended an invitation to all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states including the United States to take part in the games, but apart from Greece, they all stayed away. The NATO believes that the competition, which was founded just a year after relations between Russia and the West went into freefall after the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, is being used by Moscow to promote its military power and weapons. Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers were also introduced for the first time in the closing ceremony of this year’s contest.
Beijing, co-host of the games beside Russia, held the seaborne assault competition for the Marine corps in Quanzhou, faced by Taiwan’s Kinmen County, apparently with some political intentions. India, another military power of the region, also took part in two categories. Indian press explained that the participation was in line with an effort to “boost bilateral cooperation following the summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.” Also noteworthy is the involvement of Iran, which is currently at odds with Washington, as a co-organizer for the first time, indicating that the games are serving as a platform to enhance military cooperation among anti-American countries.
Jung-Min Dong firstname.lastname@example.org