Russia and Vietnam BFFs Now! Putin’s Pivot to the East Heats Up as US FUMES

Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit to Vietnam marks a significant strategic accomplishment in Russia's foreign policy, solidifying ties through defense, energy, and nuclear science agreements amid international tensions and isolation.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The recent state visits to North Korea (DPRK) and Vietnam by the official delegation of the Russian Federation, led by President Vladimir Putin, have represented a substantial strategic accomplishment in Russia’s foreign policy, including foreign economic policy, under the declared Russian strategy of pivoting to the East.

Putin’s trip to North Korea drew the most attention, but his visit to Vietnam was not without controversy. On June 17, the US Embassy in Hanoi released a statement cautioning against the Russian president’s forthcoming visit to Vietnam. “No country should provide Putin with a platform to promote his war of aggression or otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities,” the US embassy said in a statement.

Unbothered, the Vietnamese government stated on its website, “The visit demonstrates that Vietnam is actively pursuing its foreign policy in the spirit of independence, self-reliance, diversification, and multilateralism.”

During Putin’s visit to Vietnam, many important agreements were signed. The Russian president stated after the talks that the parties “will enhance cooperation in the field of defense and security. Our countries intend to jointly address challenges, taking into account the current international situation.”

The two countries signed one interesting agreement. Putin and the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, To Lam, agreed that the parties “will not enter into agreements with third countries that could harm the sovereignty of Russia or Vietnam.” Furthermore, they do not intend to participate in conflicts “on behalf of any third party if it would negatively impact relations between Hanoi and Moscow.”  The Russian side assured Hanoi that Moscow “will make every effort to contribute to the overall stability in the region.”

It is generally believed that this implies Russia’s neutrality in the well-known, long-standing disputes regarding the status of the majority of the islands in the South China Sea (SCS) and the potential for Moscow to mediate in the resolution of these disputes.

Additionally, Moscow and Hanoi expressed a desire to establish a security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region that would entail the discussion of contentious issues in accordance with the principle of non-use of force. They also stated that “such disputes should not allow for closed military-political blocs.”  This is the collective political endeavor of the famed AUKUS coalition, whose military bases are situated in close proximity to the conflict zones in the SCS, to protect the region from inter-state relations interference.  

The economic outcome of the negotiations is equally significant.  Vietnam and Russia “will expand cooperation in sustainable energy and intend to create favorable conditions for the functioning of each other’s energy companies.” Additionally, the parties consented to investigate novel prospects for identifying renewable energy sources. To Lam, the head of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV), underscored that significant amounts of work is anticipated in the field of “green transformation.”

“RusHydro” will assist Vietnam in expanding the capacity of hydroelectric power plants on the rivers in the former Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the lower Mekong River by implementing the largest joint projects from the mid-2020s to the early 2030s. One of these projects will also supply electricity to a neighboring region in Cambodia. In Vietnam, Rosatom will construct a “Center for Nuclear Science and Technology.” Likewise, Russia will continue to train Vietnamese nuclear specialists, who will receive education at specialized Russian universities.

The heads of state also declared their intention to actively develop the existing free trade zone between Vietnam and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU or EEU), which has “doubled mutual trade turnover from 2015-23.” The development of sustainable credit-banking cooperation channels and the transition to settlements in national currencies will continue. In 2023, the share of transactions in Russian rubles and Vietnamese dong “accounted for more than 40% of bilateral commercial transactions. In the first quarter of this year, it was already almost 60%,” explained Putin.

NOVATEK’s plans to deploy projects for liquefying natural and petroleum gas in Vietnam are strategically important. In turn, Gazprom has been conducting industrial gas production on the Vietnamese shelf of the South China Sea for over ten years on a “production sharing” basis.

Bilateral cooperation is also progressing in areas such as mechanical engineering. “In Da Nang, at the Russian-Vietnamese enterprise’ Gaz Thanh Dat,’ which has been operating for almost ten years, assembly of GAZ brand cargo and passenger mini buses is underway. Last year, 1150 units of equipment – buses, and vans – were assembled at this site, some of which were supplied to other countries, such as Laos and the Philippines,” said Vladimir Putin, highlighting one of the important joint projects. Da Nang is in the central part of Vietnam.

To further develop the economic ties, the visit highlighted the potential for more active use of the regular corridor between the countries, connecting the ports of Vladivostok and Ho Chi Minh City. In 2022, a regular cargo line was opened here, with a container ship making weekly trips. Plans include connecting the ports of Nakhodka and northern Vietnam’s Hai Phong to this corridor.


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