Last week, a high-ranking Vietnamese defense delegation led by the deputy defense minister paid a visit to Russia. Though the trip was one of several defense-related interactions within Russia-Vietnam ties, it nonetheless highlighted the effort for both sides to cultivate this aspect of ties despite the challenges that they face in doing so.
As I have observed before in these pages, Vietnam and Russia have a defense relationship that dates back to the Cold War as part of their wider comprehensive strategic partnership. Despite some changes and strains in ties as Vietnam engages newer partners such as the United States and aspects of Russia’s regional and international behavior attracts greater scrutiny, some advances in this realm of ties have continued as Hanoi continues to modernize its military and Moscow seeks a stronger defense presence in the broader Asia-Pacific.
That has been evident over the past year or so as well, whether it be developments on orders of Russian equipment or visits and exchanges. Indeed, the official count by the Vietnamese defense ministry is that both sides have so far been carrying out more than 70 defense activities, including 12 as part of Vietnam Year in Russia and Russia Year in Vietnam.
Last week, the defense relationship has been in the headlines again with the visit of a high-ranking Vietnamese delegation to Russia. The delegation, led by Phan Van Giang, who serves as deputy defense minister and the chief of the general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, was on an official visit to Russia that lasted from August 13 to August 19.
The visit consisted of a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, the delegation met with a range of top Russian officials including V. Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian general staff. Per the official account by Vietnam’s defense ministry, during the meeting between Giang and Gerasimov, the two sides reviewed the state of their bilateral ties to date, including aspects such as education, training, exchanges, and military technical cooperation.
They also discussed avenues for future cooperation and wider regional and international issues of interest as well. The points of discussion were wide-ranging and included Russia’s issuance of scholarships for Vietnamese defense ministry officials for the academic year and Vietnam’s upcoming holding of the ASEAN chair in 2020.
Apart from these meetings, the delegation also participated in other interactions tied to the visit as well. Before the meeting between Giang and Gerasimov, there was an official reception ceremony for the delegation at the headquarters of the Russian defense ministry. And apart from that, the Vietnamese military delegation also attended the closing ceremony of the International Army Games 2019, one of a series of events with Vietnamese participation in 2019, and also laid a wreath at the Victory Square in Moscow.