Kazakhstan has long been an important military partner for the Russian government and remains the launching pad for Moscow’s space program.
This year, more than 3,000 military personnel representing 19 countries descended on the Central Asian nation to participate in a series of war games dubbed “The International Army Games.” Russia and Kazakhstan (a former Soviet Republic) will each hold events for the games, which runs through August 13th and kicked off with the Tank Biathlon.
This year’s list of competitions includes 23 different events, including those listed below.
Most competitions are for the Army, including 17 of the 23 events. Three are for air forces and two are for naval forces. The naval exercises will be held in Russia since Kazakhstan is landlocked.
The games are designed to test everything from amphibious assaults to a military version of Top Chef.
The Russian military invited 47 countries to the games, including the U.S. and its NATO allies. Greece, who sent a team to the sniper event, is the only NATO partner that accepted Russia’s invite.
The games themselves date back to the days of the USSR, when Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops would compete to hone their martial skills during peacetime.
“For many soldiers, specialists in particular, peacetime can present what we call unrealized professional syndrome,” Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military expert, told Newsweek. “They train all their life for something and they never test their skills. These competitions between crews give them a chance to feel they are the best at what they do and in particular the focus is important in support and combat support staff, such as cooks.”
The 121 teams include armies that might not be best of friends with the U.S., including the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran also sent its Basij soldiers and some police officers to compete.
“We are ready to emulate various tactical and technical things from our partners from Russia and other countries, and get acquainted with the arms they use,” Iranian Col. Mehdi Ahmadi Afshar told Sputnik News, a Russian government-controlled news agency. “We are looking forward to honest competition and fruitful cooperation with our colleagues here.”