With Russian President Vladimir Putin heading to Vietnam, some American security experts are getting concerned about the future of the US-Vietnam relationship. To understand why the Vietnamese are working with Russia, we need to take a quick history lesson.

Every American remembers the Vietnam War…the French have an even worse history in Vietnam…but both of those histories pale in comparison to China’s two millennia of conflict with Vietnam. All that to say, the relationship we’re seeing between Russia and Vietnam is simply a materialization of the phrase – “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Essentially, Vietnam is using Russia as a bit of a counter-balance to China; think of it as an extra layer of security for the Vietnamese peace of mind. Don’t let that fool you though, US-Vietnam interests are aligned against China and will continue to grow closer over the coming years.

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Hey, everybody, Peter Zeihan here. Coming to you from the Turks Trail near Denver, Colorado. It is the 20th of June, and the news today is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is on a state visit to Vietnam. He landed in Hanoi last night. He’ll probably be seeing this tomorrow anyway, some American security folks are having a bit of a conniption fit because, they thought Vietnam was now firmly in the American camp. 

And that is not a very, nuanced understanding of why Vietnam and the United States are going to be good allies in the future. quick story. So there is a plaza, kind of an open air museum in Hanoi, near the Capitol complex where they commemorate basically all the conflicts of the past. And there’s this two foot tall structure, little obelisk to commemorate the U.S. Vietnamese military know was the Vietnam War. 

I was about 20 years. And right next to it, there’s another structure about ten feet tall to commemorate the France Vietnamese War, which lasted about two centuries. And next to that is the largest structure in the facility, which is about two stories tall, which is to commemorate the Chinese Vietnamese conflict, which lasted the better part of two millennia. 

you see, American and Vietnamese interests are converging because they are both concerned about China. And for Vietnam, this is typically their first and foremost, their their first or last, their only security concern because they’ve been conquered more than once. And if any number of military conflicts with a vastly superior power in terms of numbers, and they fought back just like they did and are now over and done pretty well for themselves anyway. 

Bottom line is that, will always see its security interest through that lens. And so if you go back to the Vietnam War, when we were on the other side, they saw it the same way. And so in the Vietnam War, you’re talking about things that happened after the Sino-Soviet split. And when you all of a sudden had Maoist China and Soviet Russia staring down one another, all of a sudden Vietnam came into play from the Russian point of view. 

So the Russians were back in Vietnam, not just because we were involved, but because the Chinese were involved. And so the Vietnamese became used to having the Russians as a counterweight to Beijing, not just Washington, and said, if you look at the relations that the Russians have with everyone around the world, they’ve gotten significantly worse with almost everyone with the West, with the United States, with the northeast, Asian countries like, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. 

That’s pretty straightforward. It’s straight up Ukraine war, but with other countries it has to do with military contracting. Russian weapons systems have proven to be not a lot advanced, especially when it comes to things like jets and air intake aircraft and missiles. And so countries like India that have literally soaked billions of dollars into the Russian military complex, only to discover that most of the money now was stolen. 

And most of the technologies that the Russians said they were developing just weren’t. And then, of course, there’s the weapon systems, the legacy weapon systems, billions of dollars of that going back years that don’t work as well as they thought they did. And the Russians are even combing the world for things like artillery shells and hoovering them up in order to have them in the war. 

This doesn’t really affect Vietnam. Vietnam doesn’t have an artillery army. It doesn’t use a lot of aircraft. It doesn’t use a lot of missiles. It doesn’t use a lot of armor. They want machine guns. They want RPGs. They want things that can be shoulder launched. They want anti-ship missiles. These are things that haven’t underperformed, in the Ukraine war to this point. 

So from Vietnams point of view, it’s almost unique in the world of arms, absorbers importers that they haven’t been disappointed yet by the performance of what’s gone on in the war. And so for the Americans out there who are concerned about the ally of the future, maybe not being all that, don’t worry about it. For the issues that matter to the United States in the region, we’re actually on the same page. 

It’s trying to trying to trying and trying to China. Now, I don’t doubt if you fast forward a couple of years, failures in the Russian military complex means it won’t have the capacity to export arms to Vietnam any longer. And then that part of the conversation changes, too. We’re just not there yet. 

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