Russia has begun welcoming participants for its annual World Tank Biathlon in Moscow this year. But while participants from 14 nations are arriving from four continents, no NATO nations will be included.

Russia has framed the event as a way of celebrating national pride and Russian militaristic prowess, but some Western journalists have criticized the event for excluding NATO nations and for promoting militaristic alliances among former Soviet republics. Russia initially claimed several NATO nations would be participating in 2014, but the final competitors did not include members of the alliance, and the situation is the same this year.

Participating nations have already started at the Alabino firing range near Moscow in preparation for this year's tank races. Besides Russia, the nations set to participate this year are Angola, Armenia, Belarus, China, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Serbia, Tajikistan and Venezuela. 

Each team has the use of four tanks and must employ military tactics and navigation to outmaneuver teams from the other nations. The racing course is usually about 20 kilometers long (approximately 12.5 miles), and it is outfitted with obstacles, including fire, and gunnery exercises. Russia won the event in 2014, beating Armenia, Kazakhstan and China in the final round. China is the only nation that brings its own tanks, Sputnik International reported.

GettyImages-176680468 Russia and China are the favorites at this year's World Tank Biathlon races. Pictured: Tanks are shown prior to the start of the 2013 competition. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Russia and China are the favorites to win, though newcomers such as India, Nicaragua and Tajikistan are optimistic about their chances, Russian news service Ria Novosti reported. The first tank biathlon races are set to begin Saturday and run through Aug. 13. More than 2,000 foreign troops are slated to participate, Sputnik International reported Friday.