MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia can be proud of its military, which has shown a "high degree" of combat readiness during the nation's biggest war games in more than two decades.
"Today we can be proud of our army," Putin said.
The maneuvers, which began Friday and continue through this week, involve 160,000 troops and about 5,000 tanks and other armored vehicles across Siberia and the far eastern region in a massive show of the nation's resurgent military might. The exercise also involved 70 Pacific Fleet ships and 130 aircraft, including Tu-95 strategic bombers.
Putin, who watched the maneuvers Wednesday at a firing range near Chita in southern Siberia, said the troops successfully fulfilled combat tasks.
"They have demonstrated a high degree of combat readiness and the ability to fulfill the tasks which were set," Putin said, hailing the military's performance as "more than satisfactory."
Russia says the exercise was part of regular combat training and wasn't directed against any particular nation, though some analysts believe the show of force was aimed at China and Japan.
Moscow and Beijing forged what they described as a "strategic partnership" after the 1991 Soviet collapse following decades of Cold War-era rivalry. But despite their close political and economic ties and military cooperation, many in Russia have felt increasingly uneasy about the growing might of its giant eastern neighbor.
Moscow had warned its neighbors about the exercise before it started, and provided particularly detailed information to China in line with an agreement that envisages a mutual exchange of data about military activities along the 4,300-kilometer (2,700-mile) border.
Sergei Koshelev, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry military cooperation department, said Tuesday that Russia had no obligation to invite Chinese observers to watch the exercise as it had been conducted more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The Russian military has made an emphasis on conducting surprise maneuvers to improve troops' readiness, and the current exercise is by far the largest such event both in terms of number of troops involved and vast distances to which they traveled.
"Such maneuvers are particularly important now as we are conducting a large-scale effort to modernize the arsenals," Putin said.
The Kremlin has launched an ambitious arms modernization program that envisages spending over 20 trillion rubles (more than $615 billion) on new weapons through 2020.