Putin seeks support from old ally Vietnam amid Russia’s growing isolation


SINGAPORE — Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Vietnam on Thursday to bolster support from an old ally in Asia amid Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, which has left it increasingly isolated from the West.

Visiting Vietnam for the first time since 2017, Putin arrived early Thursday in the capital, Hanoi, and was received by President To Lam. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, the two leaders agreed to increase cooperation on energy and research into nuclear science and technology.

Putin, who was joined by Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, said both Russia and Vietnam believe in “building solid, relevant security architecture in Asia … on the principles of the nonuse of force and a peaceful settlement of disputes.” He added that there will be “no place for closed military-political blocs.” Ahead of the visit, Putin also thanked Vietnam for its “balanced position” on Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Lam, a hard-liner in Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party who recently rose to power, praised Putin before the beginning of closed-door negotiations, saying that Russia’s global standing has been “growing steadily” under his leadership. “Our people and I personally view the development of bilateral relations as very important and highly appreciate your support for relations between our states,” he said.

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While Russia and Vietnam have been close allies since the Cold War era, the sheen on that relationship has faded in recent years as Vietnam has cultivated warmer relations with the United States in an effort to balance the projection of Chinese power, political analysts say.

Vietnam has been gradually weaning itself off its reliance on Russian defense equipment and last year upgraded its relationship with the United States to the highest possible level, granting it the same status as China and Russia. The United States is now Vietnam’s largest export market and has been increasing security assistance, particularly at sea, where Vietnam faces encroachment from Chinese forces.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy earlier this week criticized Hanoi for agreeing to host Putin, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on a charge of illegally deporting and transferring Ukrainian children, a war crime, during Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“No country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities,” the U.S. Embassy said.

Putin’s stop in Hanoi was part of a concerted campaign to shore up international support in the face of the West’s growing efforts to shun his country, including with mounting sanctions. He visited China last month and traveled earlier this week to North Korea, where he signed a new strategic pact with leader Kim Jong Un.

For Putin, the visit to Vietnam is a chance to demonstrate that Russia still has global reach, said Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu who studies Vietnamese foreign policy. Vietnam is “a significant country in a significant region” that is increasingly being courted by the world’s superpowers, Vuving said. “Russia, of course, wants to show that it’s still a friend,” he added.

Robyn Dixon in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.



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