TAIPEI, TAIWAN (East Asia Pacific, Feb 22 nd,2020): – Scholars in Asia say Vietnam’s move this month to bolster defense ties with Russia will advance the Southeast Asian country’s pursuit of a multi-country foreign policy allowing it to depend on no single outside power.
The country that has been challenged by France, the United States and China within the past decade welcomes Russian assistance, Vietnamese state media outlets said after their Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich visited Moscow Feb. 5. “He therefore highlighted Vietnam’s consistent policy of enhancing the solidarity, friendship and comprehensive strategic cooperation with Russia, which is also the top priority in the foreign policy of the Vietnamese (Communist) Party, state and army,” party website Nhan Dan Online said.
That means Russia will keep Vietnam well armed and equipped with oil while acting as a counterweight against other big countries, analysts believe, in exchange for deals and more global military clout. The outcome matches Vietnam’s goal of getting along with all world powers without growing so cozy with any that it cannot stand on its own, they say.
“Vietnam has been in a very active process of trying to secure resources from many countries including Russia, including Japan, to demonstrate that it’s not building a singular alliance, but rather it’s trying to diversify its relationships,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo.
Vietnam is also exploring closer relations with the United States despite bitter wartime memories going back to the 1960s but not as fast as Washington would like, Nagy said. China, as Vietnam’s communist neighbor, maintains close political ties as well as $100 billion plus in annual trade, but Vietnamese resent China after a border war in 1979 and because Chinese forces today control tracts of the South China Sea that Vietnam also claims.
Russia happens to be pushing for better relations around Asia. It’s expected to look for buyers of arms and oil — its two specialties — while staying relevant globally. Sanctions by the U.S. and European Union government after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea have hurt pieces of the Russian economy.
“The general sentiment in this region is that Russia is seen as an alternative partner when it comes to the Sino-U.S. rivalry,” said Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “So, Russia is one of those other alternative choices that you can turn to if you want to get away from the Sino-U.S. competition.”
Vietnam already trusts Russia as a helpful yet non-invasive partner going back more than 50 years.