Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Commentary

Why Putin’s visit to Vietnam should not alarm Americans

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s June 20 visit to Hanoi, Vietnam has triggered some alarm bells in the West, where some observers worried that Vietnam may be drifting away from the U.S. orbit and more towards Russia. The Vietnamese and Americans fought a long war half a century ago, but have since repaired their relationship and have even partnered on both military and economic issues.

Watch the above video as Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan reassures Americans that for as long as China remains a threat, Vietnam and the United States will continue to share long-term security interests.


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The following is an excerpt from Peter’s June 21 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

With Russian President Vladimir Putin heading to Vietnam, some American security experts are getting concerned about the future of the U.S.-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, U.S.-Vietnam interests are aligned against China and will continue to grow closer over the coming years.

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. You’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 in 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 a little obelisk to commemorate the US Vietnamese military, the Vietnam war lasts about 20 years. And right next to it, another structure 10 feet tall to commemorate the France Vietnamese War, which lasted about two centuries. And next to that is the larger structure in the facility, which is about two storeys 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 or only security concern, because they’ve been conquered more than once and faced any number of military conflicts with a vastly superior power in terms of numbers. And they fought back just like they did an army war. And they’ve done pretty well for themselves anyway, bottom line is Vietnam will always get 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 cyno 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 weapon systems have proven to be not all that advanced, especially when it comes to things like jets and anti 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 to anti ship missiles. These are things that haven’t underperformed in the Ukraine word of this point. So from Vietnam’s point of view, it’s almost unique in the world of ours 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 LI 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 try to try to turn 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 to where it is not there yet.

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