In late August 2018, Russian Defense MinisterSergey Shoygu said the exercise will be the largest to be held in Russia since "Zapad-81" held by the Soviet Union in 1981. The Zapad exercises in 1981 involved about 100,000 to 150,000 troops and were the largest Soviet military exercises ever held. Shoygu later reported that nearly 300,000 troops would be taking part in the drills along with 36,000 vehicles and 1000 aircraft. 80 warships are also involved in the exercise. Vostok 2018 was double the size of the previous exercise in the region, Vostok 2014.
Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin reported that 91 foreign observers from 57 countries would be attending the exercise. Vostok 2018 took place during a time of deteriorating relations between Russia and the West. China and Mongolia plan to participate in Vostok 2018, with the People's Liberation Army sending 3200 troops, more than 900 pieces of land equipment and 30 aircraft. Beijing reported that its troops would be participating at the Tsugol training range in the Trans-Baikal region. The Chinese involvement is to improve Chinese-Russian military relations, as well as to prevent Chinese concern about military exercises near their border. The joint exercise will also allow Russia to demonstrate it is not militarily isolated. There are reports that there will be sharing of information between the Russian Armed Forces and the People's Liberation Army on combat lessons from the Syrian Civil War.