Why Vietnam Might Want to Reconsider Its Russia Policy

Published in: Yusof Ishak Institute, Issue 2022, No. 50 (May 2022)

Posted on RAND.org on May 12, 2022

by Derek Grossman

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  • Russia's war in Ukraine has put many countries in a tough spot, pitting them between maintaining healthy ties with Moscow and supporting Western punitive measures. One such nation is Vietnam.
  • Despite their close cooperation on military affairs, Vietnam and Russia have been drifting apart for decades. The primary impetus for their cooperation during the Cold War—countering China—is no longer applicable to their partnership. Russia's positions on the South China Sea disputes and Mekong River issues also do not align with Vietnam's strategic interests.
  • Much to the chagrin of the West, Vietnam's "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Russia is likely to persist due to Hanoi's reliance on Russian arms, bureaucratic momentum, the China factor, and shared ideology.
  • Vietnam will try to weather the Russia storm and preserve ties with both Moscow and Washington, as well as other Western nations.
  • For now, the best that the West can do is consistently note their concerns and the likely implications that refusing to condemn or punish Russia might have on Vietnam's own security. No amount of poking or prodding by outside powers will be successful or be appreciated in Hanoi.

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