Putin Visit on the Agenda After Invitation From Vietnam Party Chief

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Putin Visit on the Agenda After Invitation From Vietnam Party Chief

Over the past two years, Hanoi has hosted the leaders of five of its seven “comprehensive strategic partners.” Russia’s leader could be next.

Putin Visit on the Agenda After Invitation From Vietnam Party Chief

US President Joe Biden and Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, attend a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, September 10, 2023.

Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin could soon make a state visit to Vietnam, after receiving an invitation from Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) chief Nguyen Phu Throng during a telephone call yesterday.

During the call, Vietnamese state media reported, “General Secretary Trọng took the occasion to extend an invitation to President Putin to visit Viet Nam in the near future, which the latter accepted with pleasure.” According to another report, Putin agreed that “both sides would coordinate to arrange a suitable time for the trip.”

Should a visit be organized soon, Putin would follow similar visits by U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping, in September and December, respectively.

In the call, Trong also congratulated Putin on his “reelection” as Russia’s president, and offered his condolences to the Russian people and families of the victims of the Crocus City concert hall in Moscow last week. At least 137 people, including three children, were killed in the attack, which has been claimed by the Islamic State.

During the call, Trong made customary reference to the good relations that Vietnam has enjoyed with Russia dating back to the years of the Soviet Union. According to the state media paraphrase, he expressed appreciation for Russia’s “significant assistance during the Soviet era as well as today, for Viet Nam and its people. He stressed that Viet Nam viewed its comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia as a primary focus in its foreign policy.” The two countries established their comprehensive strategic partnership in 2012.

Putin has made four visits to Vietnam during his years in power, most recently for the APEC Summit in Danang in 2017. He also attended the East Asia Summit hosted by Vietnam in 2020, which was conducted via video-link during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether or not Putin ends up visiting this year remains unclear. In October, state media outlets reported that Putin had accepted an invitation from Vietnam’s president for a visit, but no further announcements have since been made. This could be a result of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court last March, which has complicated international travel for Putin somewhat, or perhaps by the Russian leader’s pariah-status in the West, which might complicate Vietnam’s plans to host him.

In any event, a state visit by Putin would make sense from Vietnam’s perspective. Hanoi currently has a comprehensive strategic partnership with seven nations, five of whose leaders have visited the country over the past two years. Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visited the country in June, shortly before the visits by Biden and Xi. The leaders of Singapore and Indonesia, which are both in the process of making similar upgrades to their relationship with Vietnam, have also paid recent visits to the country, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August 2023 and President Joko Widodo in January of this year. Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio visited the country in April-May 2022.

The only “comprehensive strategic” partners whose leaders Vietnam has not hosted are India and Russia, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in May on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan.

One could hardly ask for a better illustration of Vietnam’s omnidirectional foreign policy, which has prized the creation and consolidation of warm relationships with all of the world’s major powers. Indeed, this flurry of international visits has taken place alongside a considerable expansion of Vietnam’s diplomacy, which has seen it establish comprehensive strategic partnerships with South Korea (in December 2022), the U.S. (September 2023), Japan (November 2023), and Australia (March 2024), with Indonesia and Singapore potentially to come.

Given this line of recent state visits to Hanoi, it seems only a matter of time before the Vietnamese government rolls out the red carpet for Putin – whatever his current low reputation in the West.