September 6, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10182

Russia's 'Vostok-2022' Military Exercises Are An Attempt To Project Military Prowess And Ties Against The Backdrop Of Ukraine

September 6, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10182

Russia's Vostok-2022 military exercises are taking place in Russia's Eastern military district. They commenced on September 1, 2022 and will conclude on September 7, 2022.  On September 6, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a working visit to Vladivostok to get acquainted with the course of the exercises and meet with the leaders of some of the participating countries.[1]These are the first exercises that Putin has observed since the start of the war in Ukraine.[2] Prior to the start of the exercise Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin assured foreign military attachés that the Vostok-2022 exercises were defensive in nature and not targeted against specific states and military alliances.[3] Obviously Russia does expect to reap some dividends from the strategic staff and command exercise. There are 50,000 participants involved in the exercises, including troops and observers from China, India, Syria, Nicaragua, Algeria, Mongolia, Laos, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan.[4]

While the number of participants sounds impressive it pales in comparison to the 2018 exercises in the Eastern Military District that had nearly six times the participants.[5] Russian troops and equipment are obviously needed in Ukraine, and elsewhere.

The following report speculates on what Russia hopes to achieve from these exercises.

Logo of the Strategic Command-Staff Exercises Vostok-2022 (Source:

Business As Usual

It was important for Russia to demonstrate that the special military operation in Ukraine has not completely diverted Russia from other areas of military concern. As Russia's military has underperformed in Ukraine, the exercises demonstrate that there remain countries – most notably China and India – who still want to interact with the Russian defense establishment.

Displaying Competence To The Domestic Audience

Russian readers receive reports on some of the exercises, and perhaps their confidence may be bolstered after reading about missile boats conducting an attack on a mock naval target,[6] Russian forces repelling a landing by a hypothetical enemy in Sakhalin (that is claimed by Japan) [7] and close interaction between Russian and Chinese vessels in the Sea of Japan including the employment of carrier-based helicopters. [8]

Russia Is Not Isolated

Throughout the entire course of the Ukraine operation, Russian officials and their surrogates have informed their countrymen, that the West's effort has failed, and most of the world's population refuses to break ties with Russia. Vostok-2022 is seen as further proof of the inefficacy of isolating Russia. Bloomberg's description of the Chinese and Indian participation in the exercises as a "challenge to the West" is happily cited, as are the failed American attempts to dissuade New Delhi from participating. The Russian orientalist Vladimir Avatkov disparaged such attempts: "However, earlier calls were already made to Delhi not to buy Russian energy resources, and in general to refuse to cooperate with the 'aggressor'. However, no one listens to the United States warnings anymore (for some reason). Perhaps they realize that you can’t cook porridge with the Americans and you can enter into "major politics" with them, only in the capacity of the hegemon's younger brother."[9]

Vladimir Avatkov (Source:

Retired Colonel Viktor Baranets, military analyst for believes that the relationship between the Chinese and Russian defense establishments has been growing stronger on a constant basis, and Chinese participation in Vostok-2022 was part of the course. "These exercises really testify to the further deepening of military and military-technical relations between Russia and China. Moreover, such exercises are held regularly. But if the Western press really wants to, then today it will consider any fact of Russian-Chinese relations through the prism of either the Taiwanese or Ukrainian problem. This has long become a pattern both for Western propaganda in general and for Ukrainian propaganda in particular."[10]

Viktor Baranets (Source:

A Building Block To Something Stronger?

All the above benefits for Russia from these exercises, while comforting, lack the ability to morph into an institutionalized military bloc that can counter the US and its allies in the Far East. Independent military analyst Pavel Felgengauer downgraded the exercises ability to build a pro-Russian alliance. There was a difference between showing up for the exercises and moving to an allied relationship.

In the case of India that has long maintained good relations with Moscow and was a good customer of both Soviet and then Russian arms, Felgengauer believes that relations have passed their peak. The Indian participation in the exercises was symbolic in terms of the token Indian force. The Indians have recently shown less enthusiasm for purchasing weapons from Moscow. China, refuses to ally with anyone. The PRC contents itself with a relationship with Russia, that the Chinese have dubbed a "strategic partnership," but for Beijing an alliance with Russia is simply not on the table.

The absurdity of extrapolating from participation in Vostok-2022 to alliances is demonstrated by the participation of China and India. For India, China is its main strategic adversary. "New Delhi is actively preparing for war with Beijing, including nuclear one. The both sides are engaged in a serious unresolved territorial dispute in Tibet. They have already clashed over this territory back in the 1960s.

"So, imagining India and China being united under a one alliance against NATO is pretty much the same as imagining Russia and the US uniting against Ukraine right now."

India, despite its participation in Vostok-2022 is increasingly coming under Western influence. It is part of regional alliances with the US, the UK and Australia that are directed against China.[11]

The Indian case is repeated with Vietnam – a no show at Vostok despite Russia's long-standing good relations with Hanoi. Again, the strained relations between Hanoi and Beijing are the fly in the ointment. Russia can enjoy good bilateral relationships with both China and Vietnam, but a trilateral relationship is out of the question.


[1], September 4, 2022.

[2], September 6, 2022.

[3], August 29, 2022.

[4], September 5, 2022.

[5], August 30, 2022.

[6], September 4, 2022.

[7], September 3, 2022.

[8], September 5, 2022.

[9], September 2, 2022.

[10], September 3, 2022.

[11], August 39, 2022.

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