Korybko To Vietnamese Media: Strategic Ties With Russia Stabilize The Region

OneWorld is publishing the full text of the interview that Andrew Korybko recently gave to Zing News’ Dương Quốc Đạt, some excerpts of which were cited in the latter’s article on the topic titled “Sự điều chỉnh thích hợp với tình hình mới của quan hệ Việt – Nga”.

1. What’s your impression of this joint statement? For example, what are its highlights? Are there any unexpected results/developments in the document?

The joint statement reaffirms the historical Russian-Vietnamese Strategic Partnership and aims to adapt it to emerging modern-day realities. The emphasis on security cooperation underscores the traditional basis of their ties, while it’s important to point out that they reminded observers that their military relations aren’t aimed against any third parties. This should hopefully reassure China of their peaceful intentions. On that topic, the inclusion of UNCLOS shows that Russia truly pursues a neutral and balanced policy towards the region. In spite of its strategic partnership with China, Russia will not take Beijing’s side over Hanoi’s or any other regional countries’ when it comes to their unresolved disputes over the South China Sea. Lastly, the desire to expand economic relations is significant since they’ve yet to approach anywhere near their full potential. Hopefully their plans to boost the efficiency of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAU) free trade agreement with Vietnam will be successful.

2. What does this joint statement mean for the future cooperation between Russia and Vietnam?

Vietnam will remain one of Russia’s top strategic partners in Eurasia and a pivotal pillar of Moscow’s Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP), particularly with respect to its aim to enhance Russia’s and its EAU’s ties with ASEAN. Observers should expect bilateral relations to comprehensively expand across the present decade, which will in turn enable Russia to become a more important player in Southeast Asia. The Russian-Vietnamese Strategic Partnership is also an excellent example of major power-middle power relations. Despite the asymmetry in their sizes, they truly treat one another as equals and with respect. Neither makes any demands of the other, especially concerning their partnerships with third countries, such as Russia’s with China and Vietnam’s with the US. By concentrating solely on issues of bilateral importance while reaffirming their peaceful intentions and lack of desire to negatively influence any third countries’ interests, they set a positive example for other major power-middle power axes.

3. Military and military-technical cooperation was mentioned quite early in the document. What does this suggest?

This suggests that the traditional basis of their strategic partnership will continue to remain as such due to the mutual benefits involved. Vietnam requires modern weapons from a reliable supplier in order to bolster its defensive capabilities while Russia hopes to show the region how successfully it can leverage its “military diplomacy”. What’s meant by this is that Russia’s export of cutting-edge weapons can serve as an inroad to comprehensively expanding bilateral relations in other dimensions such as the economic and political ones for instance. The ASEAN region continues to militarize due to unresolved territorial disputes and internal challenges. It’s important for these countries to receive high-quality arms from reliable suppliers that don’t have any ulterior geopolitical motives. While China has previously expressed concern about the US’ growing military influence in ASEAN, it hasn’t shared such views about Russia’s. This suggests that it feels more comfortable with Russia supplying arms to the region than the US.

4. According to the joint statement, Vietnam and Russia affirmed the universality and consistency of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS). What’s the implication of this affirmation? Could this be considered a win for Vietnam given that the country has consistently cited UNCLOS as the way to address the issues in the South China Sea?

It’s more objective to assess that clause less as a win for someone and thus an implied loss for someone else, but to acknowledge what it implies about Russia’s stance towards regional territorial disputes. Despite its strategic partnership with China, Moscow doesn’t intend to take Beijing’s side over any of the regional countries’. Instead, the Kremlin has consistently reaffirmed its belief in the UN as the supreme arbiter of international disputes. Having said that, it’s also previously expressed concern about the objectivity of some UN-related bodies and the possibility of them being influenced by third parties such as the US in order to advance certain geopolitical ends. This being the case, the most balanced interpretation of both sides affirming UNCLOS’ universality in their joint statement is that Russia intends to signal its regional political neutrality instead of supporting one side over the other. Some observers might see it differently, but it’s unrealistic that Russia meant to send any negative signal to China.

5. The joint statement has this paragraph: “Should Vietnam return to its plans of building a national atomic energy industry, Russia will be viewed as a priority partner in this field”. What’s your comment on this paragraph, given that Vietnam has made a commitment to reducing emissions to zero by 2050 at COP26?

“Nuclear diplomacy” is another creative means of modern-day diplomacy which Russia also employs alongside its “military diplomacy” that was earlier described. This particular form refers to its responsible nuclear energy partnerships with other countries in accordance with international law. Just like its arms exports open up inroads for the comprehensive expansion of bilateral ties, so too does its nuclear energy dimension. Both are very strategic fields and thus represent the closeness and deep trust between each pair of partnered countries. That particular paragraph’s message is that Russia and Vietnam will work closely in this field if Hanoi makes the decision to go forward with such plans. Should that end up happening, then it would serve as a positive example of how carbon superpower Russia can responsibly help lead the global green revolution. It would also further enhance the Russian-Vietnamese Strategic Partnership and could inspire other ASEAN states to request Moscow’s relevant assistance.

6. What direction will Vietnam – Russia bilateral relations take after this joint statement? Is this document signaling that Russia will increase its presence in the region of Southeast Asia?

Russia’s overall presence in Southeast Asia remains minimal compared to other major countries like China, the US, Japan, and even India, but Vietnam could function as a platform for expanding this by serving as a positive example of the mutual benefits inherent to clinching a strategic partnership with Moscow. As the regional countries aim to diversify their foreign partnerships while also carefully trying to prevent others from misinterpreting their intentions, it’s crucial for them to expand relations with truly neutral and balanced countries. Russia has no ulterior motives in the region and isn’t viewed with suspicion by anyone. This is proven by its balanced approach to the South China Sea, which it reaffirmed through UNCLOS’ mentioning in the earlier examined clause of their joint statement. The further development of the ASEAN countries’ ties with Russia therefore shouldn’t cause concern from either China or the US, which should appreciate Russia’s responsible and purely apolitical regional role.

By Andrew Korybko Via http://oneworld.press/?module=articles&action=view&id=2342