Thousands of soldiers from 39 countries have arrived for the Kazakhstan leg of the fifth annual International Army Games, a Moscow-led military sports event organized by Russia’s Ministry of Defence.

“The International Army Games are celebrating their fifth anniversary this year. Over the course of the last five years, they have become large-scale, substantial competitions. This year, over 5,000 soldiers from 39 countries are taking part in the games,” Kazakhstan’s Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev said during the opening ceremony.

The participants will take part in a total of 32 competitions on both the land and water, as well as in the air. The soldiers’ will

Referred to by some of the participants as the “War Olympics”, the Games bring together most of the countries in the world that have a close military, political, or economic relationship with Russia, including Moscow’s key allies Iran, Syria, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Serbia, and Belarus.

The event has been successful in attracting contingents from nations that are traditional enemies – Armenia and Azerbaijan; India and Pakistan; Israel and Iran – a fact that Yermekbayev alluded to prior to the opening of the Games when he referred to the event as a “new format of military diplomacy”.

With the exception of Greece, the West has previously opted out of taking part in the Games. This year, however, the US, France, Turkey, and Slovakia – all NATO members – have sent observer missions to the event for the first time.

The International Army Games are running from 3-17 August.