Background Brief:Vietnam-Russia ComprehensiveStrategic PartnershipCarlyle A. ThayerSeptember 2, 2012
On July 27, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang met with his Russian counterpartPresident Vladimir Putin in the resort city of Sochi. The two presidents issued a jointstatement on raising their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.This development raises a number of questions for strategic analysts.First, why are Vietnam and Russia seeking a closer relationship at this time? Russia
became Vietnam’s first strategic partner in 2001. Their bilateral relations developedgradually and picked up pace with Russia’s economic recovery. The elevation of
relations to the level of comprehensive strategic partner is a natural development.But this factor alone is not a sufficient explanation.Since 2001, Vietnam developed strategic partnerships with seven other countries:Japan (2006), India (2007), China (2008), South Korea (2009), Spain (2009), UnitedKingdom (2010) and Germany (2011). Only one of these strategic partnerships hasbeen raised to the next level; in 2009 Vietnam and China became comprehensivestrategic partners.
President Putkin has been proactive in pushing Russia’s return to Asia. A
comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam serves this objective. Vietnamnegotiations with the United States on a strategic partnership have stalled. Vietnam,which seeks to multilateralism and diversity its external relations, responded to theopportunity offered by Putin. American companies will now have to calculatewhether they risk missing out on commercial opportunities in Vietnam.Second, what does each seek to gain from this relationship? There are four long-standing major components of the strategic partnership: oil and gas cooperation,energy cooperation (hydro and nuclear power), military equipment and technology,and trade and investment. There are also three other areas of importance: scienceand technology, education and training, as well as culture and tourism.Vietnam and Russia formed Vietsovpetro, an oil and gas joint venture, in 1981. It has
been active on Vietnam’s continental shelf and more recently in Russia as well. Thishas been Russia’s most profitable enterprise. The joint venture has been extended to
2030. Further, Vietnam and Russia agreed to facilitate the operations of other jointventures such as Rusvietpetro, Gazpromviet and Vietgazprom to expand oil and gasexploration and exploitation activities to third countries.
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