Russia opened its first International Military Games last week, a medley of martial sports designed to highlight Russia’s military prowess as it competes against 16 other countries, including prominent importers of its weapons like China and India. None of the participants are members of NATO.
There is the tank biathlon, a combined obstacle course and shooting range that vaguely resembles the Winter sport popular in Nordic countries. In aviadarts, fighter jets and military helicopters compete to perform the most accurate aerial bombardment. Other events are self-explanatory, like “Masters of Artillery Fire.”
Unsurprisingly, Russia, which invented most of the 13 events, is in first place.
The games are just one in a series of events and celebrations in Russia to promote the military since the Russian annexation of Crimea last March and the collapse of relations with the West. President Vladimir V. Putin has championed a 22-trillion ruble ($343 billion) program to modernize Russia’s military, which he has presented to the country as a guarantor of Russia’s security from NATO. Russia’s military has been on near-constant alert this year, holding massive training drills as tensions have risen with the West over the war in Ukraine.