Russian President Vladimir Putin to Visit Vietnam after North Korea

Russian President Vladimir Putin to Visit Vietnam after North Korea

Key events:

  • President Vladimir Putin Visits Vietnam after North Korea, Prompting Criticism from United States
  • Report: Vietnam Lacks ‘Just’ Factor in Implementation of Just Energy Transition Partnership

Vladimir Putin Visits Vietnam after North Korea, Prompting Criticism from United States 

Russian President Vladimir Putin began his two-day state visit to Vietnam on June 19 at the invitation of party chairman Nguyen Phu Trong. State media hailed the trip as the opening for further discussions to consolidate bilateral ties and promote cooperation between Hanoi and Moscow. The Russian president’s last visit occurred in 2017 when he arrived in Danang to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting hosted by Vietnam.

According to Vietnamese state media, Putin’s official trip marks the 30th anniversary of the Treaty on the Principles of Friendly Relations between Vietnam and Russia. The two former Cold War allies will also celebrate the 75th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations in 2025. Hanoi upgraded its relationship with Moscow to its highest diplomatic echelon of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2012.

An official statement said Putin’s state visit agenda includes a welcoming at the Presidential Palace on June 20. The Russian leader is also scheduled to conduct high-profile discussions with senior Vietnamese leaders, including party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, as part of the official working framework. Before arriving in Vietnam, Putin paid a visit to North Korea, where he met with its leader, Kim Jong Un, and signed a deal that could allow Pyongyang to supply Moscow with much-needed ammunition to sustain its war effort in Ukraine.

On June 17, President To Lam met with Russian Ambassador Gennady Bezdetko in Hanoi, where Lam said he considered Russia one of Vietnam’s top priority partners. The Vietnamese president added that “President Putin's upcoming visit will be an important milestone” for developing bilateral relations.

However, the news of Putin’s scheduled arrival to Hanoi has drawn sharp criticisms from the United States, one of Vietnam’s largest trading partners. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi told Reuters that “no country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities.” Previously, the European Union said it was dissatisfied with Hanoi’s postponement of a meeting with the EU envoy on Russian sanctions to prepare for Putin’s official visit reportedly.

Although Vietnam has not disclosed details of its planned discussions with Russia, an official who requested anonymity told Reuters that arms deals, gas and oil explorations in the South China Sea, and payments are vital issues that could be included in the talks. 

Several experts believe that Vietnam’s partners, such as the U.S., the European Union nations, Japan, and South Korea, may view Hanoi with a more skeptical eye after the country hosted Putin on his combined trip to North Korea. “But on the other hand, Hanoi would gain more trust in the eyes of Russia,” Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii, told VOA News Vietnamese. Vuving said that Hanoi’s welcoming of the Russian leader, who has been criticized for his war crimes in Ukraine, “highlights the fact that Vietnam, like North Korea, is a close friend of Russia.”

Meanwhile, some people in Vietnam said they looked forward to the arrival of the Russian leader because the former Soviet Union and Hanoi held a shared Communist ideology during the Cold War. At the time, when many party cadres and business people in Vietnam went to study and developed an affectionate attitude towards the Soviet Union’s image. Moscow is also Vietnam’s top supplier of armaments and a crucial partner for joint exploration of oil and gas in the South China Sea. 

Report: Vietnam Lacks ‘Just’ Factor in Implementation of Just Energy Transition Partnership

The Vietnam Climate Defenders Coalition and International Rivers have released a new report on the current status of Vietnam’s transition to green energy from coal-based sources. The report, titled “The Missing ‘Just’ in Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP),” was released on June 17, one week before the third anniversary of the imprisonment of climate change campaigner Dang Dinh Bach due to his environmental activism.

Dang Dinh Bach, the director of a nonprofit organization on law and climate, is serving a five-year sentence under poor living conditions. Another climate activist, Hoang Thi Minh Hong, a former Obama Foundation scholar, has also been imprisoned for her advocacy against the use of coal. The report stated that “the arrests and wider fears of persecution in the environmental and energy sectors have restricted access to information, transparency, and public participation in Vietnam’s energy transition process.”

The report analyzes the effectiveness of the JETP in helping countries vulnerable to climate change in four key areas: financing, governance and implementing mechanisms, technology and energy solutions, and civil society participation.

However, the findings showed several shortcomings in each criterion, especially the financial assistance offered in market rate loans rather than grants, which could incur significant debt for developing countries like Vietnam. A concrete timeline to eliminate coal in the JETP implementation plan is also absent. At the same time, the report underscores the lack of clarity and a policy framework for a smooth transition, in addition to the arrests of Vietnamese climate leaders, who were essential channels of communication and consultation with civil society.

In the recommendations, the report urges the immediate release of imprisoned climate defenders and the participation of civil society and vulnerable groups in the decision-making of energy transition policies. At the same time, it calls for the clear development of the JETP principles, the prioritization of grants over debt in transition funding commitments, and the establishment of oversight mechanisms to monitor projects funded by the JETP.

Quick take:

TikTok Froze Account of a National Gymnast Following Her Posting of ‘Boat People’ Photos: Chinese-owned platform TikTok has frozen the personal account of Pham Nhu Phuong, a Vietnamese national gymnast, after state media criticized her for posting hand-drawn photos of “boat people,” or war refugees fleeing South Vietnam following the Communist takeover in 1975. Phuong, also known as Louis Pham, took photos at an exhibition in the U.S., which she attended with her boyfriend on March 21, and then posted on social media. TikTok has not responded to requests for a response.

Vietnam Wants to Promote Cooperation with China’s Legislature: On June 17, Permanent Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Minh Vu met with Fu Ying, a standing member and deputy chairman of China’s Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress. Deputy Minister Vu said that Vietnam wanted to promote cooperation in all fields with China and to increase cooperation with the Chinese legislature. He also called on both countries to strengthen public opinion and promote other socio-political exchange activities.

Deputy Prime Minister Calls on U.S. to Recognize Vietnam’s Market Economy Status: At a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Evans Knapper on June 18, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang called on the U.S. to remove Vietnam from the list of countries designated by Washington as non-market economies. Deputy Prime Minister Quang urged the U.S. to increase support for Vietnam to help the country reach its development goals by 2045 and overcome postwar legacies. The U.S. Department of Commerce will rule on this on July 26.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Putin’s Visit to Vietnam: When the Past Weighs on the Present

Fulcrum/ Hoang Thi Ha/ June 19

“Vietnam’s foreign policy for the past two decades has been lauded for its pragmatism. However, Putin’s visit to Hanoi underscores that pragmatism is not the sole or primary guiding principle. Factors such as risk aversion, path dependency, and sentimental attachments to a foreign power also influence the Vietnamese elite’s decisions, which are not always based on a rational cost-benefit calculus. While Russia’s value to Vietnam lies more in the past than in the present and future, Putin’s “memory diplomacy” still has some mileage in Vietnam.”

New Faces of Vietnamese Politics: Better Red than Expert?

Fulcrum/ Nguyen Khac Giang/ June 18

“A noticeable trait among these seven new leaders is their background in either the party apparatus or the police and military. Only Le Minh Hung, former governor of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), qualifies as a technocrat – that is, someone with technical or economic expertise. This makes two technocrats (along with Hanoi’s Party Secretary Dinh Tien Dung) out of 16 Politburo members, compared to seven out of 16 in the 12th Congress (2016) and five out of 19 at the start of the 13th Congress in 2021. This is the lowest ratio of technocrats in the Politburo since 1997.  The party often adheres to the principle of “both red and expert” (vừa hồng vừa chuyên) – meaning one must be both committed to communist ideology and technically excellent – when choosing leaders. This emphasis has now decisively tilted towards the former.”

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