Playing Games With the Russian Military

Sep 17, 2018 | 09:00 GMT

Venezuelan soldiers sit next to their Chinese counterparts during the opening ceremonies for the portion of the International Army Games held in China's Hubei province.

This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) personnel taking part in the opening ceremony of the International Army Games 2017 in Guangshui in China's central Hubei province. Armed forces teams from Iran, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela and host China are participating in the games taking place in Xinjiang, Jilin and Hubei provinces marking the 90th anniversary of China's People's Liberation Army.

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Scene: As dusk settles over China's Xinjiang autonomous region, a Venezuelan tank commander consults with a technical adviser from the People's Liberation Army. Meanwhile, in Belarus, a contingent of Philippine army snipers squares off with squads from Morocco, Serbia and Myanmar. This is not the premise of the latest installment of the popular "Call of Duty" video game series. Nor is it the beginning of a dystopic military thriller starring Tom Cruise (though it could be). No, this was just another day at the fourth annual International Army Games (IAG), which concluded about a month ago. With over 30 nations participating in 28 events staged in seven countries, the games are ostensibly an international affair. But make no mistake, the competition is a loud and proud production of the Russian Ministry of Defense. And we mustn't confuse this affair with other military "Olympics" like the Military World Games, featuring athletes representing...