Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia and Chairman of the United Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, arrived in Vietnam on a visit
Vietnam was always an important ally of Russia. Russia was always an important ally of Vietnam. The visit showed that Russian-Vietnamese relations are full of positive symbolism and kind words and rich in particular areas of cooperation.
Vietnam was never on the periphery of Russian foreign policy. It is instead the opposite. This is the only country in Southeast Asia that the Russian president has visited five times.
Vietnam’s leader has visited Russia seven times since the beginning of the 2000s. In recent years, dialogue between the countries has been going on very actively, primarily through foreign affairs agencies, inter-parliamentary relations and cooperation between political parties.
Meetings on May 22 involved Vietnamese President Vaughan Thyong, Prime Minister Pham Min Thin, Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Nguyen Fu Chong, and Permanent Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party Chyong Thi Mai. It shows the level of importance given to this meeting by Vietnam. The discussion developed to the whole spectrum of trade and economic cooperation.
In 2021, bilateral trade between Russia and Vietnam exceeded the $7 billion mark. But in 2022, it fell by a third (– 35.9%). It was because of Western sanctions. The sanctions caused difficulties in conducting bank payments and violated transport and logistics chains.
The negotiations in Hanoi touched upon using national currencies in mutual trade. Also, the ways for Russian tourists can pay for goods and services and cash withdrawals. Russia is ready to resume wheat supplies to Vietnam.
Strong cooperation in the fuel and energy complex
Particular attention in the negotiations was given to cooperation in the fuel and energy complex field. Large Russian companies such as Gazprom, Zarubezhneft and NOVATEK are active in Vietnam. The topic of construction of energy generation facilities in the republic was on the table.
There are no analogues to a project of such a scale as, for example, Vietsovpetro in the world. The infrastructure, the annual income and its contribution to the economy of Vietnam are exceptional. So is the number of involved and trained personnel. Russian-Vietnamese cooperation in the oil industry can be considered one of the pillars of bilateral cooperation
Another critical area remains nuclear energy. The project for constructing a nuclear power plant, «Ninhthuan», has not yet been implemented. Considering the rapid growth in electricity consumption in Vietnam, the request for atomic technology in Hanoi was again highlighted.
Creating the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology between «Rosatom» and the Vietnam Institute of Atomic Energy is an important step.
An important topic of Dmitry Medvedev’s meetings in Vietnam was issues of cooperation in the field of food. Russian companies are ready to resume wheat supplies and increase meat exports. That could be an essential element in ensuring food security in Vietnam.
Pressure from the USA and Collective West
However, there would be almost impossible to imagine Russian bilateral relations with third countries without the US and the Collective West trying to prevent them.
On April 11 this year, Assistant Secretary of State USA for East Asia and the Pacific, Daniel Critenbrink, acknowledged that the States were negotiating with Vietnam and other partners about “the diversification of defence purchases from Russia”.
Hanoi is the largest buyer of Russian weapons in Southeast Asia. Vietnam relies on the Russian Federation for about 70% of its weapons supply, spare parts and equipment repair.
Trade between Vietnam and the USA is developing dynamically. In 2022, trade amounted to $124 billion. The American export market is one of the most attractive for Vietnamese businesses. Leading American companies also show significant interest in Vietnam. A large number of Vietnamese students study at American universities.
However, the basic principle of Vietnam’s foreign policy is to balance and retain room for maneuver. Hanoy’s position is moderately restrained: it considers both the interests of Moscow and the mood in Washington. Indeed, Vietnam would be happy not to be bullied when deciding on its trade and defence policies. Unfortunately, that seems to be impossible today.