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Jun 20, 2024, 10:03am EDT
Southeast Asia
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Semafor Signals

Putin arrives in Vietnam in bid to flex Russia’s power amid isolation campaign

Insights from Financial Times, The New York Times, and Fulcrum

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Vladimir Putin and Vietnamese leader
Nhac Nguyen/Pool via Reuters
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The News

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Vietnam on Thursday for a visit in which he hopes to boost the countries’ relationship despite Moscow’s international isolation.

The two countries signed 15 documents, including a joint statement on deepening their strategic relationship, Russian news outlet Vedomosti reported.

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Putin’s visit comes less than a year after the US and Vietnam signed their own strategic partnership. American officials have condemned the Russian visit, and said that it risks enabling “Russia’s blatant violations of international law.”

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Vietnam’s ‘bamboo diplomacy’ means Hanoi is unlikely to choose a side

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Sources:  
Geopolitical Intelligence Services, Financial Times

Vietnam has hosted Putin, Xi Jinping, and Joe Biden in the past year, as Hanoi seeks to avoid picking a side despite growing geopolitical tensions. Nguyen Pho Truong, the most senior political figure in Vietnam, has described the approach “bamboo diplomacy,” citing the need to be “firm but flexible.” The policy also means that Hanoi is unlikely to announce any major deals with Russia any time soon, even if it has so far avoided condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine. “Vietnam will be wise enough to make sure that the visit will not harm its relation with US and western partners,” an expert told the Financial Times.

Vietnam remains reliant on Russian arms

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Sources:  
Fulcrum, The New York Times, Reuters

Up to 70 percent of Vietnam’s military arsenal comes from Moscow, making Vietnam practically dependent on the Kremlin for its national security, the New York Times reported. As the country seeks to upgrade its Soviet-era military kit, some analysts suspect that the Vietnamese government might violate US sanctions to buy newer Russian weapons. In turn, the US has reportedly discussed selling F-16 fighter jets to Vietnam in an effort to reduce its reliance on Russian arms, Reuters reported. The overture might not work: “Everyone wants to talk about this burgeoning defense relationship with the United States, but it ain’t going to happen because the Vietnamese military is very pro-Russian,” a military expert told The New York Times last year.

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