Russia’s Military Showdown in the Shadow of the Ukraine War: Vostok-2022 Drill

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On August 18, 2022, the Moscow administration announced that the fourth Vostok (East) drills will be held on August 30-September 5, 2022, under the name Vostok-2022.[1] It has been announced that China, Belarus, India, Tajikistan, and Mongolia will also participate in the drill. Vostok drills, which are held in four-year periods, were previously held in 2010, 2014 and 2018. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army also participated in the drill in 2018, and Vostok-2018 took its place in the literature as the largest military drill after the Cold War, as 300,000 personnel were employed.[2] Russia, while the war in Ukraine continues; what messages is Vostok preparing to deliver by carrying out the 2022 drill?

First, Russia is fighting Ukraine on the “Western Front.” Vostok drills, on the other hand, are a preparation for the “Eastern Front.” In this sense, Russia wanted to show strength despite the war it is currently waging and to show that its situation is not weak against the countries in its east. But more importantly, the Kremlin administration is trying to create the impression that things are going as planned in Ukraine by carrying out its routine military activities.

On the other hand, the information that Vostok-2018 was held in five different areas maintains its place in the memories.[3] According to media reports, more than ten areas have been identified for Vostok-2022.[4] This indicates that the Moscow administration wants to enter a possible war in the east in a much more prepared way.

On the other hand, Russia seems to have felt the need to give some messages about alliance relations on the drill. The first of these is to show that Russia is not alone. For this reason, it is necessary to mention the situation of the actors who will participate in the drill.

First, it should be emphasized once again that China also participated in the drill in 2018. Although this data indicates that there has been no significant change in the Chinese dimension of the issue, it is possible to argue that the Russia-Ukraine War deepened the “alliance of the Others”. Because the two countries felt the need to show their rivals that they acted together militarily.

At the same time, the announcement that the Vostok-2022 drill will be held right after the Taiwan Crisis is quite remarkable in terms of its timing. This can be interpreted as the parties stand behind the joint declaration signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping[5] during their meeting in Beijing on February 4, 2022, and are careful to act accordingly.

The situation of Belarus, one of the actors that will participate in Vostok-2022, can be described as stating the obvious. Because the Minsk administration carries out the integration process with Russia quickly, draws the reaction of the Western World due to its policy towards the war in Ukraine and even becomes the target of sanctions. Therefore, the participation of Belarus in the drill is not surprising.

On the other hand, there is an actor that can be considered as a surprise among the countries that will participate in Vostok-2022. Because the participation of India is a very interesting event. The most important point to be mentioned here is that India will take part in the same drill with China. It seems; Russia wanted to show that it could mediate in the resolution of conflicts between two regional rivals with border problems. In addition, the Moscow administration gives the message to the architects of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, especially the United States of America (USA), that it is an actor with the power to disrupt the policy in question. In this regard, it can be argued that the Kremlin wants to use New Delhi’s efforts to achieve strategic autonomy in foreign policy.

On the other hand, while war in Ukraine continues; India’s agreement on to take part in the drill of the Russian Army may also bring about a serious trust problem in New Delhi’s relations with the West. In fact, the military cooperation between Russia and India draws the reaction of the West. Vostok-2022 could cause problems to take on a much more complicated dimension.

Another participating state is Tajikistan. On this drill, the Moscow administration tries to demonstrate that its traditional influence on Dushanbe continues. As it is known, Tajikistan participates in the routine drills organized periodically by the Central Asian states with the USA. It even hosted the last military drill called “Regional Cooperation-2022”. For this reason, Moscow sent an invitation to the Dushanbe administration to participate in Vostok-2022 and wanted to show the West that it could not act as it wanted in Central Asia and that some of its efforts were in vain.

Looking at the geopolitical reflection of this drill, it should be underlined that the Russia-China-India triangle may be formed. Of course, this situation means that the Turkish states in Central Asia are placed in a geopolitical grip; that means it is surrounded.

As a result, Russia, while the war in Ukraine continues the “Western Front”, announced that the Vostok drill, which is one of its routine drills, will be held. Russia did that announcement to show that it is still strong, not to be caught unprepared for possible conflicts in the “Eastern Front”, to show its determination regarding the alliance with China, to give the message that the integration process with Belarus continues, to create the impression that New Delhi is a “Trojan Horse” and to show that it maintains its influence on Tajikistan. The most important geopolitical reality revealed by the drill is that if New Delhi is included in the alliance on the Moscow-Beijing line, the Turkic republics in Central Asia will face a deep siege.

[1] “Çin, Rusya’nın Tatbikatına Katılacak”, Dünya,, (Date of Accession: 19.08.2022).

[2] “Vostok 2018: Rusya ve Çin’den ‘Soğuk Savaş’ Sonrasının En Kapsamlı Tatbikatı”, BBC Türkçe,, (Date of Accession: 19.08.2022).

[3] “VOSTOK 2018: Rusya’nın On Yıllık Stratejik Tatbikatları Ve Savaş Hazırlıkları”, NATO Review,, (Date of Accession: 19.08.2022).

[4] “Batıda Ukrayna ile Savaşan Rusya, Doğuda ‘2022 Vostok’ Askeri Tatbikatını Düzenleyecek”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 19.08.2022).

[5] Sabir Askeroğlu, “Russian-Chinese Entente Against Collective Western Alliance”,, (Date of Accession: 19.08.2022).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.