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World View: Russia and Vietnam Agree to Mutual Defense Cooperation Pact to Counter China

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This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Vietnam buys cruise missiles from Russia to threaten China
  • China accuses Vietnam of ‘double-dealing’ with Russia, US
  • Russia and Vietnam agree to mutual defense cooperation pact to counter China
  • US requests access to Philippines military bases

Vietnam buys cruise missiles from Russia to threaten China

Russian media cartoon depicting friendly Russia-Vietnam relations during 1965-75, when Vietnam beat the US in the Vietnam war (RBTH)
Russian media cartoon depicting friendly Russia-Vietnam relations during 1965-75, when Vietnam beat the US in the Vietnam war (RBTH)

Vietnam has purchased 50 (3M-14E Klub) supersonic cruise missiles from Russia, to be used in its fleet of (SSK Kilo-class diesel-electric) submarines.

There are two things about this deal. First, popular wisdom says that China and Russia are allies, but Russia is supplying China’s enemy with advanced weapons. And second, the missiles can be used by Vietnam against Chinese ships and Chinese land targets. Vietnam is the first Southeast Asian nation to arm its submarine fleet with a land attack missile.

According to one analyst, the land-attack cruise missiles mark a “massive shift” advancing Vietnam’s Navy capabilities. “They’ve given themselves a much more powerful deterrent that complicates China’s strategic calculations.”

As we’ve been reporting, China has been speeding up its military takeover of the South China Sea, using land reclamation projects to build military bases within territories that have historically belonged to other countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines. Vietnam and the Philippines have agreed to establish a strategic military partnership to counter China’s belligerence. Vietnam last year announced that it will be purchasing several warships from India, and now Vietnam is taking another step, purchasing advanced cruise missiles from Russia.

The land-attack weapons are capable of precision strikes at a range of 300 km (190 miles). Beyond China’s coastal cities, potential targets are the naval base at Sanya on China’s Hainan Island, as well as any of the military bases that China is building on reclaimed land in the South China Sea. Reuters and Diplomat

China accuses Vietnam of ‘double-dealing’ with Russia, US

According to Chinese state media:

China doesn’t want territorial and maritime antagonism with Vietnam standing in the way of implementing [China’s regional initiatives]. Vietnam should be roped into this grand vision.

From the angle of Hanoi, the ruling communist party is unwilling and unable to go to extremes and launch head-on challenge against China over territorial claims. Exercising restraints and giving a timely handshake will ease down the tensions in the South China Sea so that it won’t risk a spillover effect affecting economic and political interests. Vietnam desires reconciliation more than China does.

Although led by communist parties, China and Vietnam lack political mutual trust. Both nations have historical animosities, but the major crux of the current distrust rests on the quandary caused by sovereignty-related issues. …

[With regard to Vietnam’s relations with Russia and the US], Hanoi is playing “double-dealer” without anyone who has its back, which might eventually put itself in danger.

China’s concept that Vietnam might accept China’s wonderful “grand vision” and ignore China’s annexation of territories historically belonging to Vietnam is a fantasy of the highest order. People who write to me and give me logical reasons why China’s vast military buildup does not mean that China is preparing a preemptive missile attack on the US should understand that China’s massive state of denial is as bad as that of Washington and Brussels, and leads them to believe that they can easily win a war against anyone, including the US. This is not a rational belief, but an emotional fantasy belief, which is supported by many Chinese media reports that I’ve quoted over the years.

China clearly dislikes Russia’s improved relationships with Vietnam, and accuses Russia of wanting to establish a base in Vietnam, which is probably true. In 2012, China called the relationship “unrighteous,” and rebuked Russia for preferring to cooperate with “ill-doers” over nurturing a partnership with China. However, nothing in the Vietnam-Russia relationship is likely to deter China’s accelerating military buildup in the South China Sea. Global Times (Beijing) and Jamestown

Russia and Vietnam agree to mutual defense cooperation pact to counter China

During the visit in early April of Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to Hanoi, the two countries approved a draft military cooperation pact formalizing bilateral defense cooperation. Although China was not mentioned directly in the pact, it’s clear that China is the target.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is a logical turn of events. Russia and Vietnam have had a close relationship for decades, and it was Russian weapons that helped Vietnam win its war with the United States. On the other hand, Russia and China have centuries of hatreds and crisis wars between them, as do Vietnam and China. In fact, Russia and China were almost at war in the 1960s, while Vietnam and China actually were at war in the late 1970s.

The common wisdom is that Russia and China are natural allies, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s true that Russia and China are the two countries today that are annexing other country’s territories, as Hitler did in the late 1930s, and Russia and China support each other in the United Nations Security Council. But that relationship can be described as: “There’s honor among thieves.”

Russia recently signed a big energy deal with China to help bolster its economy, which is wracked by low oil prices and Western sanctions. However, many analysts have pointed out that this energy deal was a move of desperation by Russia, which was forced to agree to sell oil and gas to China at the lowest possible prices. So instead of being natural allies, Russia is desperately dependent on China.

Russia points outs that it is not a direct party to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but favors having the disputes adjudicated by the appropriate United Nations maritime courts, something that China rejects because it knows it would lose in court.

Russia’s mutual defense agreement with Vietnam appears to be an attempt to counter-balance China’s influence in the region, as well as Russia’s own extreme economic dependence on China. Jamestown and Vietnam Net and Russia Beyond the Headlines

US requests access to Philippines military bases

The United States has asked for access to eight military bases in the Philippines to rotate troops, aircraft, and ships, to counter China’s rapid military buildup in the South China Sea. These include bases in Subic and Clark, from which the Philippines ejected the US in 1992. Reuters

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Vietnam, China, Dmitry Medvedev, Philippines
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