Vietnam – Russia: New Development in New Historical Period

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The year 2013 marks a new milestone of Vietnam-Russia friendship and cooperation relationship when both sides are determined to realize the comprehensive strategic partnership. This year is also marked by the launch of the first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation between Vietnam and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan dated March 28, 2013 in Hanoi.This year is considered a good chance for both sides to take a look on traditional years of Russia’s presence in Vietnam and trace the diplomatic progress made by Vietnam and Russia.

Tight political relations

The Vietnam-Russia relationship dates back to 1950 when Vietnam (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam then) established diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R (the Russian Federation at present). Russia is traditionally one of Vietnam’s strongest allies.

In 1994, Vietnam and Russia signed a treaty on fundamental principles of the friendly relationship between the two countries. This helps lay legal foundation for their relations in a new development period.

The bilateral political relations between Vietnam and Russia have been developing stronger and stronger with much more trust due to frequent exchanges of high-profile visits of both leaders. In 2001, Vietnam and Russia officially established the strategic partnership relations. Also in this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a visit to Vietnam. This relationship was upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2012.

In July 2012, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang made a five-day visit to Russia to push Vietnam-Russia cooperation in various fields. In May 2013, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited Moscow at the invitation of Russian Prime Minister D. Medvedev.

Most recently, in October 2013, the Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov came to Vietnam to attend a session of an intergovernmental committee to prepare for the upcoming visit to Vietnam by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In terms of international and regional issues, both sides support each other at international forums while Vietnam supports Russia to participate in the ASEM forums and East Asia Summit. Vietnam and Russia have successfully implemented many co-operation mechanisms such as Vietnam-Russia Inter-governmental Committee on Economic, Trade and Scientific and Technological Cooperation, the annual Strategic Dialogue on Diplomacy-Defense-Security, and regular political consultations between their Foreign Ministries.

New symbol in new century

There are some metrics to measure the successful relationship between Vietnam and Russia. For decades, both Vietnam and Russia have successfully implemented many strategic projects, especially in field of energy. The Vietsopetro joint venture since 1981 has been very successful and constantly expanding on Vietnam’s continental shelf. And recently Zarubezhneft – the Russian shareholder of Vietsopetro has won the tender for developing another gas block offshore south of Vietnam. The joint venture not only operates in Vietnam but also in Russia, Far North and Southern Urals.

The most typical one is the nuclear power plant – the first one in Vietnam. Russia has agreed to lend Vietnam around US$8 billion to build the first nuclear power plant Ninh Thuan 1. This plant with two reactors with combined capacity of 2,000 MW belongs to Vietnam’s national electricity development plant between 2011 and 2020 with a vision to 2030 (Plan VII). The construction of this plant will start in 2014. This project promises to become a new symbol of Vietnamese-Russian relations in the 21st century.

In the visit to Russia in 2012, President Truong Tan Sang expressed that Vietnam and Russia would continue to coordinate the main areas of development of bilateral relations for the next decades, especially in oil and gas, energy, science and technologies, education, personnel training, culture and tourism. Also in this visit, both sides signed the Joint Action Plan and Memorandum on exchanging strategic data between both sides’ national customs services. This helps promote Vietnam -Russia trade and economic ties. Many agreements were signed between Vietnam and Russia in agriculture, culture. This allows both sides to further improve the legal foundations of bilateral cooperation in the future.

In addition, the successful negotiations of an FTA between the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and Vietnam, and the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union will further foster economic ties between the two countries and regions.

Expansion of cooperation between localities

During the meeting at APEC Forum in September 2012, between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, both leaders agreed to strengthen multifaceted relations between Vietnam and the Far East in fields of mining, wood processing, garments, etc. Vietnam has organised many business delegations to the Far East to seek co-operation opportunities.

In a visit to Vietnam on 17 June, 2013, the Russian Minister for Far East Development V.I. Ishaev expressed that Russia would support Vietnamese companies to invest in the Far East – a region with huge economic potential. Mr Ishaev revealed that his ministry has been working with relevant Russian agencies to develop the socio-economic development scheme for the Far East till 2025.

Russian Far East is now focusing on important economic sectors including shipbuilding, aquaculture, chemical industry and natural resources. Especially, in 2010, Vladivostok Air – the largest carrier in the Russian Far East and Siberia – opened 14 direct flights from Khabarovsk and Vladivostok to Cam Ranh Airport. The flight has contributed to the development of tourism in the Central region.

Far East region is on high demand of cereal products, vegetables, milk, eggs, etc. This is a good opportunity for Vietnamese exporters to expand their export and to further boost Vietnamese-Russian bilateral economic relations.

In addition, Quang Nam and Binh Thuan provinces had earlier established cooperative ties with Primorye region in the Far East of Russia.

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