Russia’s Growing Ties with Vietnam
Image Credit: REUTERS/Kham

Russia’s Growing Ties with Vietnam


Russia’s policies in Southeast Asia often pass without a great deal of remark. But missing the latest twists and turns in Russia’s relationship with Vietnam risks a failure to grasp key elements of the way in which these two important Asian actors are responding to China’s rising power and to trends in Asian security. Although Sino-Russian ties are deepening, at least in the context of the United States, in Southeast Asia Russia has in fact quietly but openly resisted Chinese encroachments and is forging a deeper military-political relationship with Vietnam.

Beijing has repeatedly demanded that Moscow terminate energy explorations in the South China Sea, clearly responding to Russia’s visibly enhanced interests in the region. In 2012, Russia announced its interest in regaining a naval base at Cam Ranh Bay, a step probably connected to joint Russo-Vietnamese energy projects off Vietnam’s coast, and a potential means of checking China. Gazprom also signed a deal to explore two licensed blocks in Vietnam’s continental shelf in the South China Sea, taking a 49% stake in the offshore blocks, which hold an estimated 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 25 million tons of gas condensate. Those actions precipitated Beijing’s demand that Moscow leave the area. Yet despite its silence, presumably to avoid antagonizing China, Moscow stayed put. Since then it has stepped up support for Vietnam involving energy exploration in the South China Sea and, perhaps more ominously from China’s standpoint, arms sales and defense cooperation.

Russia’s ties to Vietnam are flourishing as Hanoi, clearly aiming to deter the China threat, has become a major customer for Russian weapons, primarily buying submarines and planes. Russia and Vietnam have been “strategic partners” since 2001, a relationship that was upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2012. Bilateral trade and scientific-cultural exchanges are growing, with Russia ranking eighteenth among 101 foreign investors in Vietnam, focusing on mining, processing and manufacturing industries (particularly energy). And Russia is helping Vietnam build a nuclear power plant.

But perhaps the most striking and consequential forms of cooperation are military. Vietnam’s Defense minister, General Phung Quang Thanh, recently remarked, “cooperation in the military-technical spheres between the two countries highly contribute towards strengthening the traditional friendship and facilitating the further development of the strategic partnership.”

Apart from the openly expressed interest in using Cam Rah Bay, Russia is helping Vietnam build a submarine base and repair dockyard to provide maintenance support for other naval platforms. The submarine base will host the Kilo-class subs that Vietnam has bought from Russia and will almost certainly be deployed to protect Vietnamese interests in the South China Sea. More recently, both sides have begun discussing a document allowing for regular Russian port visits to Vietnam for maintenance and R&R, although Cam Ranh Bay will not become a Russian base.

Vietnam and Russia also announced a third tranche of the sale of 12 new SU-30MK2 fighter aircraft that can target ships, aerial and ground targets, while Vietnam has also ordered six Varshavyanka-class submarines that represent an improvement on its existing Kilo-class submarines and can conduct anti-submarine, anti-ship, general reconnaissance and patrols in relatively shallow waters like the South China Sea. These sales represent a Vietnamese example of defense modernization to defend against threats to its offshore energy interests, defend its claims in the South China Sea, and deter growing Chinese aggressiveness. In these respects it is doing what other Southeast Asian states are doing to modernize aging defense inventories and defend against new threats.

But perhaps the most striking aspect of these recent arms sales and ministerial talks is the fact that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved a draft Russia-Vietnam military cooperation pact that would formalize the two governments’ defense cooperation. Medvedev’s approval orders the Russian Ministry of Defense to discuss the planned accord with the Vietnamese government and authorizes the Russian ministry to sign the agreement on behalf of the Russian government. The planned accord would stipulate exchanges of opinions and information confidence-building measures, cooperate to enhance international security and ensure more effective action against terrorism and better arms control.

October 2, 2013 at 11:37

God bless the Vietnamese people, from a Chinese brother. I hope you can be true allies with Russia.

September 30, 2013 at 02:26

LOL. you hit them right in the nose.  It sad to know that Vietcong still believe that they have the best system in the world and like religion -that is why communist don't have religion or god- one would thinks their god is the best and other opinion believers or gods are infidels and divils and worth to be killed,  That is why, the VC are locking up any one with different opinions. 

September 30, 2013 at 02:18

I don't think VC hates its Vietnamese people. they just don't trust them, they still mentally live in fear like in the war, fear of revolution like they once did, fear of losing the managerial jobs and power with all the corrupted money filled their bank accounts in and outside the country.  Most rich millionaires business people in Vietnam are ex VCs, their comrades, their family members.  It's true, Vietnam is a Mafia state, communist friends agree, signed documents, help their comrades and families to do business, send their kids to foreign universities with tax payers' money. Just imagine, the poor worker make $200 a month with slogan "sacrifice for your country, you are not workers, you are bosses of this cmpany, this country", but the communists' kid studu abroads and live a rich life.  I met a VN girl in Canada, her father works for Vietnam goverment, she bought things without care  looking at the price tags.

Henry PHAM
September 29, 2013 at 20:51

I said I'm done with your Su-35 and Lada class subs. Keep being  deluded with your China Russia partnership and don't talk to me again. Thank you.

September 29, 2013 at 13:35

You know, I wanted to save you from embarassing yourself any further but please fail more. If you actually read taat report you would know that "internet opinion poll" is from the BBC and collected by face to face interviews. Are you accusing the BBC of being an unreliable source now? Are you suggesting your ancedotal evidence is more realiable like your previous claim about your source inside the Vietnamese military testing the Su-35 despite that being impossible or how you have a wife from "Kamtchaka" and traveling there all the time despite not being able to spell the name right. Yes we are done here becuase you have shown that nothing you say has any credibility so it's pointless to continue arguing with you. After all this time, your grapes are still sour.

Henry PHAM
September 28, 2013 at 10:19

You are really pathetic. After using the sell of Su-35 and Lada class subs by Russia to China to say how great the partnership of Russia and China, now you are using an  opinion polls of the Russian public about China found on the Internet.

Russia is not gonna sell exclusively the Su-35 and the Lada Class to the China. Once the version of the Su-35 and the Lada class subs for export are ready to be sold to foreign customers, Russia is gonna sell them to India, Algeria, Venezuala and Vietnam too. It's really ridiculous to proclaim how great the partneship between Russia and China just because the Russians sell the Su-35 and the Lada class subs to the Chinese.

The idea of using a worthless opinion polls of the Russian public found on the Internet to support your claim is even more pathetic. I'm an Vietnamese American living in Europe and my wife is Russian and she is born in Kamtchaka. I go a lot to Russia, in Siberia and in the Russian Far East to visit her family and in the Russian Far East and Siberia, there is nothing they hate more than the Chinese.

If the partnership between Russia and China, explain to me the Russians did kill so ruthlessly the Chinese poachers they found in their waters ? Why did they do a drill of 160 000 military men in Siberia and Russian Far East aimed at China ?

Keep yourself deluded with your China-Russia partnership. It's just a façade to contain the USA. Otherwise, the Russians neither love or trust China. Now I'm done with you and your Su-35 and Lada class subs.





September 28, 2013 at 00:13

We're finally making some progress now that you backtracked on your faulty claims regarding those those weapons so there is just one final thing to disprove. A simple search of opinion polls tells me you are wrong, opinion of China by the Russian public is favorable (42% positive vs 24% negative).

With that, I'm done here. Everything you said has been disproven.

Oh, and your grapes are still sour.

Henry PHAM
September 27, 2013 at 21:13

About the Su-35 and the Lada class subs, it's not in the tradition of the Vietnamese Army to buy weapons when they just appear on the market. They prefer to wait a little bit and see others try them before considering a purchase.

If Vietnam really want the Su-35 and the Lada class subs, be sure that the Russians will be more than happy to sell them to Vietnam. My grapes are not sour so don't delude yourself with the China-Russia partnership. It's just facade like the author of the article says. Nobody in the world trust nor love the Chinese, especially the Russians.


September 27, 2013 at 13:42

Starting your reply with argumentum ad hominem, always a good way to tell when someone doesn't actually have a legitimate response. Right up there with "I know from Vietnamese military sources" as the paragon of credibility in an internet debate. A suspicious claim considering the head of Rosoboronexport is still saying he will let Chinese pilots fly it "soon" after a deal has already been reached to purchase it and has never marketed the Su-35 to Vietnam.

As for the Lada subs, yes Russia once cancelled it but has also recently revived it. Even though it performed belows expectations, it is still an upgrade over the Kilo with some of the most advanced submarine technology built into it.

The Su-35 is the pinnacle of conventenal fighter design. It easily outclasses all other fighters apart from the F-22.

I'm sorry that Vietnam is not getting Russia's most advanced weapons, but saying they are not good enough for Vietnam is not a valid point considering it's better than what you are currently getting from Russia. Your grapes are still sour.

Little Helmsman
September 27, 2013 at 05:10

@VietCong(Spirit) & Noi Noi,

Who is hating whom?  You guys label me (Nazi and dog) and you call me the hater?  Go re-read your comments.  I don't normally comment on personal insults but just wanted to point out your uncle Ho hypocrisy.

The questions that should be answer here are:  why Vietnamese communists HATE their own people so much as to NOT let them choose their own leader?  Why can't Viet people have a choice to choose the political system for the country?  Why VC hate their own people so much as to NOT let Viet people choose what kind of country Vietnam should be?  There are 90 million people in Vietnam, surely, not everyone of those Vietnamese believe in Communism, VC, uncle Ho, etc.?  Hint, hint that's why there was a war!  

Of course, any reasonable person knows that Viet communists and their sympathizers never care to address these issues or real questions!!  Kinda funny how VC are so frightened of reality that NO one really cared about their toilet bowl ideology.  The only way for VC to rule is to control the gun like a mafia organization.  Vietnam is a very, very, very backward and primitive country.  Viet Cong made sure to make Vietnam that way.  And they are responsible for the mess they have made!

Educated and moral people of Vietnam would surely reject primitive communist dictatorship.  That's the truth.

Being in denial is all Viet communists have left since so many communist regimes have bitten the dust of history!  That's why Viet Cong have ZERO allies in the world!  LOL.  There are only 5 Marxist Leninist dictatorships left on earth: China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea and Laos!  THAT IS A FACT!  I think we know who is in denial!

The biggest haters on the planet are communists.  They hate their own people so much as to impose a dictatorship on their own people.  They are unreasonable, irrational and emotional people with delusions of grandeur.  KInda like jihadists and Al Qaeda.


What will happen when democracy comes to Vietnam?  Viet communists power is already dwindling by the day!     

My advice to Viet commies, let go of your hatred for Vietnamese people and respect them as human beings with rights and opinions.  That is a civilized behavior!  

The war is over so accept the fact that humanity has rejected communism and its dictatorship.  More countries have become democratic rather than becoming communist!!  In fact NOT country has become communist since VC were celebrating their spring victory in 75!  That's pretty funny!  I feel so sad for commies like Noi Noi and VCSpirit.  There have nothing to celebrate for anymore.  The only countries who will congratulate them on April 30th are Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and China?  That's it!  :)  

NO more dictatorship for Vietnam.  Viet Cong cannot massacre an idea (democracy).  VC can kill people but the idea of democracy will live on.  


Henry PHAM
September 26, 2013 at 23:49

Concerning the Su-35, Vietnam is a long time ally of the Russia. If Vietnam really wanted the Su-35, Russia would have sold it to Vietnam. I know from Vietnamese military sources that the VPAF have already tested it and decided that they don't it for the time being. They prefer tthe system anti-aircraft Vera-E instead. If you understand Vietnamese, look at this link :


Henry PHAM
September 26, 2013 at 23:32

Like all the Pro China posters here, except bragging about how great China is or whining about how the rest of the world is unfair to China, you don't know much outside of China.

Concerning the lada-class subs look at the links here :



September 26, 2013 at 16:03

"Russia's latest, most advanced weapons are not good enough for us; that's why we buy the older and less capable ones" Your grapes are still sour.

September 26, 2013 at 03:45

Little "German"

Your politic opinion still get trapped in WWWII (Germany in 1945). The world does not need you to have more peace. You represent exactly the stereo type of Deutsche characters: hatred, lecture, radical, "smart" (know every thing), supperious, but finally fail (versager).

Be honest. You never care about us. You just hate us. So, ur opinion is not relevant here. 


Henry PHAM
September 25, 2013 at 06:49

The Russians have proposed the Su-35 and the Lada-class subs to the Vietnamese too but the Vietnamese didn't want them. The VPAF pilots have tested the Su-35 and were not satisfied with it. I think China is buying them only for the engines. The Lada class subs are still work in progress. Those subs have so many problems that even the Russian navy don't want them.

I know very well the Russians. They have no love and no trust for the Chinese and in the Russian Far East and Siberia, there are nothing they hate and despise more than the Chinese.

Nguyen Noi Noi
September 24, 2013 at 22:33

@ Little Helmsman.

It tooks you four days to draft a long winded  reply. You have a huge problem of superiority, and when you are denied of it, thenin your natural small minedness labeled those who object your view as commie or something that humiliated you. "Objective" you mentioned. How objective are you despited you have been living in an open country like the US? I am afraid that you are just as bias and I don't see anything objective at all. Well, a long barking dog is not a good dog, it may be a problem.

Little Helmsman
September 24, 2013 at 03:04

I see the little children of VC cadres (Noi Noi, Vietspirit) are out in force on this blog.  These dear nephews of uncle Ho are so ver amusing!  They can't come up with a logical, mature defense of their antiquated, broken down Communist dictatorship and have to resort of playground name calling once again!  *yawn*  No wonder Vietnam under the commies can only create companies like Vina doo doo, Vina ca ca, Vinashin, etc.  This is the best that uncle Ho education system can produce!  LOL.  Meanwhile all the bosses of Vietnam factories are Taiwanese, S. Korean, Singaporean, and Japanese capitalists.  It is kinda funny that the Viet Cong have to invite all these Asian capitalists back into Vietnam to create jobs and factories because as we know little Viet Cong have no expertise, knowledge, education, or experience in running and managing a modern factory.  It kinda makes Viet Cong sadistic history of war mongerism truly silly!  When a country is led by bad leadership, the results speak for themselves.  Vietnam GDP per capita is 163 out of 200 countries!  Truly remarkable!  All Vietnam's VC universities are ranked nowhere!  This is what S. Korea would have looked like if the DPRK (North Korea) had conquered South Korea in the 50s.  Communism = pathway to the poorhouse!  See Cuba under Castro!  :)   Commies have a strange way into turning a country into a pile of doo doo!  

It is a sad fact that Vietnam is one of only 5 Communist dictatorships left on earth.  So Viet Cong are the ones at odds with human trend and history.  People in the CPV are no longer true believers in communism because that ideology is a living joke which makes Vietnam's Communist Party a living joke!  

So Vietnam today is just a plain ole dictatorship that exist to cater to the benefits and privileges of bunch of corrupt thieves.  In Vietnam there is no such things as a real constitution, no real press, no real judiciary, and no real military led by honest, educated, and principled officer corps.  The military in Vietnam is just VC own private army loyal to a political party that is above the law.  That is the sickness and dysfunctionality of Vietnam.  Vietnam today is just like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Syria's Bashar al Assad regime, Mugabe's Zimbabwe, Castro's Cuba, or the Islamic Republic of Iran.  It reflects all the negative aspects of a typical turd world dictatorship.  

The things that make advaced democracies so great are the political culture, political values and principles that define the society.  Advanced countries have real democracy with real judiciary, an independent press, and a principled military led by men who are loyal to a country, people and constitution of that democracy and not to one corrupt political party.  It is the exact opposite of the turd world dictatorship that is Vietnam.        

The thing about a dictatorship is that its breeds a culture of ignorance, stupidity, and narrow mindedness.  Just read the comments of CPC defenders or Communist Party of Vietnam defenders (Noi Noi and Vietspirit) for proof.  They cannot piece together one paragraph that would articulate a reasonable defense of their one party dictatorship!  So the best response from these 40 watt light bulbs (not too bright) is to hurl personal insults, attacks, innuendos…  As an example calling critics of regime as "bitter", "old", "Saigon loyalist", etc…  What happened to American "puppets", and "lackeys"?  LOL  Hanoi wants to be American "puppets" nowadays since Viet Cong are scared to death of Beijing and the PLA!!!  LOL.   

Democracy and human rights will come to Vietnam one day.  A new generation of Viet children will have an opportunity to recognize the stupidity and ignorance of their leaders if they seek to study history objectively.  The only way to learn from history is to be brave enough to acknowledge the wrongdoings and mistakes of the past.  There is nothing wrong in recognizing the foolishness of leaders.  That's call honesty and onbjectivity.  Germans today acknowledge the mistakes and folly of Hitler's Nazi regime.  Russians today are aware of Stalin's crimes.  Japanese today acknowledge the stupidity of Imperial Japanese leadership which almost made Japan become extinct.    

If Vietnam becomes a free country with constitutional rights and protection, then Vietnam will learn about the excesses of the communist regime which made Vietnam a hell on earth for all of Vietnam's people.  The lesson on the stupidity of communism is commonly acknowledge in the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Baltic republics, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, etc.  Those countries have put in place constitutional safeguards to protect society from the power lust of one political faction.  It would be wise of Vietnam to learn from the experience of human history instead living in denial.  One political party does not make a country!  NO political party should be above the law.  That is a recipe for lawlessness and backwardness!  

September 23, 2013 at 19:33

So Russia sold Su-30 and Kilo-class subs to Vietnam while selling Su-35 and Lada-class subs to China. I don't think there is any doubt as to who is the more valued strategic partner.

September 23, 2013 at 17:04

Vietnam's relations with Russia and the Soviet Union are much older than that, Nelson.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief