Part I. The New Hierarchy in Vietnam’s Foreign Relations
From Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
The foundation for Vietnam’s current strategic partnership with the Russian Federationis based on their close bilateral relations since they exchanged diplomatic relations in1950, and more particularly, after 1954 when the Democratic Republic of Vietnam wasestablished in North Vietnam. Vietnam and the Soviet Union formed an alliance in allbut name in November 1978 when they agreed to a twenty‐five year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.
The Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991 and relations went into the doldrums. In 1994the two sides re‐set their relationship on a more equal footing by signing a Treaty onPrinciples of Friendly Relations. Important developments took place in August 1998 withthe signing of a Joint Statement and in September 2000 with an agreement to step upcooperation between enterprises, and to promote economic, scientific, technical andcultural co‐operation between Vietnamese provinces and their Russian counterparts.The most important bilateral mechanism is the decades‐old Vietnam‐Russia Inter‐governmental Committee for Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technical Co‐operation which meets regularly to review progress and lay out future cooperation.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Moscow pressed Vietnam for a repayment of debts totaling US $1.7 billion. Relations were strained for nearly nine years as a result of haggling over the conversion rate for Vietnam’s ruble debt. In September 2000, Vietnamfinally agreed to acquit its debts over a twenty‐three year period through a combinationof hard currency payments, goods and services, and investment in joint enterprises.Bilateral relations were further strained when Vietnam pressed Russia to pay an annualrent of US $300 million for continued access to Cam Ranh Bay. Russia declined andwithdrew.Once the debt issue was settled Moscow and Hanoi raised their relationship to astrategic partnership in March 2001 on the occasion of President Vladimir Putin’s visit toVietnam. This agreement set out broad‐ranging cooperation including the developmentof economic‐commercial, scientific‐technical and investment ties, Russian support forthe development of Vietnam’s energy sector and co‐operation in chemistry, mechanicalengineering, metallurgy electronics, agriculture, communications, science andtechnology, culture, and education. Article 8 provided for military cooperation; it stated,“The two parties will strengthen their co‐operation in military supplies to meetVietnam's and Russia's security demands and not to oppose any third country.”Since 2001, bilateral relations have been constrained by the poor state of the Russian
For background see: Ramesh Thakur and Carlyle A. Thayer,
Soviet Relations with India and Vietnam,1945‐1992
Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993).