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Thayer Vietnam-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

Thayer Vietnam-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An analysis of the factors behind the decision of Russia and Vietnam to raise their bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
An analysis of the factors behind the decision of Russia and Vietnam to raise their bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Sep 10, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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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.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Russia agreed to give Vietnam a soft loan of $10.5 billion to build its first nuclearpower plant, Ninh Thuan 1.
Russia is Vietnam’s largest provider of military weapons, equipment and technology.
The two presidents pledged to continue cooperation in this sector. Vietnam andRussia will co-produce anti-ship cruise missiles. Vietnam is expected to order moreSu-30 Sukhoi multirole jet fighters. There is obvious mutual benefit in this aspect of their relationship.In August, Russia launched the first of six Kilo-class conventional submarines due fordelivery to Vietnam over the next five years. Part of the sales package includesprovision for Russia to build a maintenance and service facility at Cam Ranh Bay andtraining for Vietnamese submariners. Vietnam has made it clear that no country willbe allowed to establish a base at Cam Ranh Bay. Vietnam will open its commercialfacilities to all countries and Russia will be given special access as a strategic partner.Trade and investment are both growing but the overall figures are modest. Two-waytrade reached US $2 billion in 2011 and it is hoped to raise this to US$5 billion in2015 and US$10 billion in 2020. Russia ranks twenty-third on the table of countriesand territories investing in Vietnam.Third, are Vietnam and Russia seeking to balance a third party -
China in Vietnam’scase, and the United States in Russia’s case? Vietnam prefers a multipolar world.
Vietnam seeks to develop relations with all the major powers. Improving relationswith Russia is part of this larger strategy. Russia does not seek to balance against theUnited States so much as to re-establish itself as a major player in the Asia-Pacific.Fourth, how will this new alignment impact on the geo-politics of the Asia-PacificRegion in general and the South China Sea in particular? Russia is a major supplier of military weaponry to both China and Vietnam. Russia has the option of withholdingor cancelling the supply of military armaments at a time of crisis.As for the South China Sea, Russian military assistance will improve Vietnam
capacity for defence and enable it to develop its own version of anti-access/area-denial in the Spratly archipelago.The joint statement issued by the two presidents upheld the status quo byreiterating that territorial disputes should be resolved by peaceful means withoutthe use of force or the threat to use force based on international law including theUnited Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. Both also agreed to include regionalsecurity on the agenda of the East Asia Summit.In sum, the Vietnam-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership is overwhelmingfocused on bilateral relations for mutual benefit. It will have a marginal impact onthe geo-politics of the Asia-Pacific Region.

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