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© 1998-2014 Vietnam Venture Group, Inc. All rights reserved.   September 5, 2003

The Russian Perspective : Vietnam

Articles Reprinted with the kind permission of PRAVDA
Copyright © 2003 Pravda Ru

America is longing to return to Vietnam     

The committee for liquidation started working at the former Russian base Cam Ranh in Vietnam. The rich inheritance of the Soviet Union is going to be handed over to Vietnam: the docking area, the houses, the electric power plant, an airbase, and even a bath house. The committee will determine which property can be ?saved from Vietnamese possession.¦ Two storm-boats are reserved to carry the army equipment to Vladivostok.

This rich gift springs from Russia's money, or the absence of it, to be more precise. Hanoi requested that Moscow pay the annual rent of $200 million for Cam Ranh. The Russian leadership made the decision to shut the base down ahead of the scheduled time. What can Russia do? Vietnam learned how to count money, especially bucks.  

However, the Americans have the possibility not to count them. Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command visited Vietnam in February. Americans offered to render material and technical assistance in exchange for use of the airbase. The rich Pentagon is ready to pay for its second coming to Vietnam: five or six thousand dollars for each takeoff and landing, up to $15 thousand for anchorage. Uncle Sam can buy everything.

Andrey Mikhailov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov


Russia left Cam Ranh for nowhere

The ferryboat Sakhalin-9 arrived at the Vietnamese port of Cam Ranh on April 24. The boat will carry equipment that was dismantled from the former Russian base to the city of Vladivostok.

Cam Ranh was built by Americans in the middle of the 1960s. The base in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, was used by the Pentagon to bomb the territories that were controlled by Vietnamese guerrillas. American President Lyndon B. Johnson visited the base and stated that the stars and stripes would blow in the wind there forever. B-52 bomber planes used to take off from that base during the period of the war in Vietnam.  

Cam Ranh was the base where Americans started their experiments with dolphins, using the animals to destroy enemy ships and divers. America released the information later, and it became known that trained dolphins killed up to 60 Vietnamese divers that were trying to blow up American vessels. It is interesting that the US Congress gave permission to the US Navy to catch 25 dolphins and sealions for national defense purposes, in spite of the fact that such hunting was prohibited.

After the war in Vietnam was over, and after American troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam, Moscow hoped that Hanoi would rent the base to the USSR. Moscow was longing to have the Soviet naval fleet on the shores of Vietnam in order to change the correlation of forces in the Pacific military theatre and undermine the American monopoly with its bases in the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea. However, Vietnam did not rush to help the USSR.

Vietnam agreed to hand Cam Ranh over to Moscow due to China, which decided to teach Hanoi a lesson in 1979 for overthrowing Beijing’s protégé Pol Pot in Cambodia. The Chinese army crossed the Vietnamese border on February 17 and reached Vietnam-s capital in a month's time.  

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union held an urgent session, at which it was decided to send a special envoy to Beijing with an ultimatum to the “Chinese supremacists.” 

While the Chinese army was attacking Vietnamese trenches, units of the Soviet army were conducting “a psychological attack” on the border between the USSR and China, and vessels of the Pacific fleet were heading to the Yellow and South China Seas. Beijing understood everything at once, and Chinese troops were quickly withdrawn from Vietnam.

The governments of the USSR and Vietnam signed the agreement on the use of Cam Ranh base. The document was signed on May 2, 1979, and it actually stipulated the free use of the base for the period of 25 years.  The base experienced its triumph during the Cold War era.  

After the USSR collapsed, Russia did not care much about the base. Russia has not used Cam Ranh for several years, and the question vanished gradually by itself. A part of its territories was given back to Vietnam, and the Russian personnel made up some 40 people. The base was turning into some kind of forgotten civilization, which was slowly drowning in the jungle.  

The ships of the Pacific navy entered the base once every several months. However, the question was who was the enemy in South East Asia, or was there an enemy at all? Cam Ranh was waiting for political and strategic decisions: what should be done, and for which war should it be prepared? The rent agreement was to expire in the year 2004, and the decision was supposed to be made two or three years before that date.

At first, Vladimir Putin was thinking of prolonging the time of the rent, but the events of September 11th crossed those plans out for good. The Russian leadership decided to sacrifice the base due to the considerations of the moment. Americans nodded, but they did not make any concessions to Russia in return. What could Russia do after that? Nothing, just shut the base down.

Russian military men all said that the base was a burden for the budget and that it was a Cold War relic, which it was not good for executing the geo-strategic goals of the army. These are all lies, as well as the statements that said that Russia would always be able to get the base back.  

Washington and Beijing have their eyes on the base already. Russia has to have enough courage to say that it is leaving the Pacific region forever.

Dmitry Chirkin  PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov


 What do Russia and Vietnam want from each other?

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov continues his tour of Asian countries. After visiting Mongolia, he set off for Vietnam on March 26. Both states used to be Moscow’s close allies in the Soviet era. Mongolia was even called “the sixteenth Soviet republic."  When Leonid Brezhnev was at the head of the Soviet government, a project for addition of Mongolia to the Soviet Union was developed. The project was about to be implemented, but at the very last moment, it was decided to give it up.

The Soviet Union managed to establish close contacts with Vietnam during the war between the South Asian state and the USA. Soviet weapons helped Vietnam achieve victory. When the war was over, the relations between the two states were still close.

After the breakup of the USSR, political and economic relations with Vietnam and Mongolia practically came to naught. As a result, the economies of both states, which were very dependent on the Soviet Union, faced a severe crisis. They had to start reforms in the economic sphere, and, first of all, they had to re-oriented themselves towards commercial partners from other countries.

Russia and these two Asian states have increased their contacts within two last years. Last year’s visits of President Vladimir Putin to Mongolia and Vietnam have considerably contributed to these new relations. Russia wrote off a great part of Mongolian and Vietnamese debts to the USSR, which is said to be the main result of the visits.  

Vietnam’s debt to the Soviet Union made up $11 billion, and the majority of it was written off during Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country. In fact, Hanoi will have to pay only a quarter of the sum in the next twenty years. The majority of the payments will be done in consumer goods.

Until recently, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, have been renting Vietnam’s Navy base in Cam Ranh. However, the base has been practically idle over the last ten years. Finally, the lease was surrendered in October of 2001. The lack of financing for the base management was mentioned as the main reason to give it up. At once, information appeared that the base may be held on lease by the USA. Vietnamese authorities rejected the idea at once and said the base would not be given on lease at all.

No official date for withdrawal of the Russian staff from the base in Cam Ranh had been announced before Mikhail Kasyanov’s visit to Vietnam. On the visit’s eve, head of the Russian Navy central headquarters Admiral Viktor Kravchenko said that Russia would hand the base over to Vietnam by July 1, 2002.

Russian arms supplies to Vietnam are another important subject to be discussed during the coming talks. Russian politicians always touch upon the subject during their visits to the Asian countries. It is quite natural, as the Asiatic market is the most attractive for Russia. One more question arises here: how is Vietnam going to pay for the arms supplies?  

Several ways can be suggested. It would be possible to expand cooperation between the countries in the spheres of power and oil-and-gas industries. Cooperation in these spheres was also discussed during Mikhail Kasyanov’s visit to Mongolia. Russia is ready to discuss the construction of an oil pipeline via Mongolia’s territory to China. If the project is a success, all participants will greatly benefit.

Despite the fact that many projects in the oil-and-gas sphere were created in Vietnam, no oil refinery has been constructed yet. The explanation is easy: lack of financing. Mikhail Kasyanov’s visit to Mongolia is believed to have solved the problem.

Thus, the key spheres for Russian-Vietnamese cooperation are the following: the oil-and-gas industry, arms supplies to Vietnam, and consumer goods from Vietnam to Russia. Commercial relations between the two countries will not concern only the mentioned spheres, as several joint enterprises in the spheres of chemical industry, construction, etc. have already been created.  

Russia and Vietnam have considerable potential to be actively developed. Special attention will be paid to development of economic and not political contacts. Such is the requirement of the time.

Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru 

Translated by Maria Gousseva
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