The US’ Sharp Rebuke Of Vietnam For Hosting Putin Later This Week Was Ridiculous

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Vietnam will still keep the US close since it considers it to be the only realistic counterweight to China in the latter’s namesake Southern Sea that Hanoi calls its East Sea, all while arming itself to the teeth with Russian weaponry just in case a conflict breaks out by miscalculation.

The US Embassy in Hanoi reacted angrily to the news that President Putin will visit Vietnam later this week. One of their spokespeople told Reuters that “No country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalise his atrocities. If he is able to travel freely, it could normalize Russia’s blatant violations of international law.” This sharp rebuke was ridiculous since it’s not the US’ place to tell its partners which foreign leaders they’re allowed to host.

It’s also hypocritical too since neither the US nor Vietnam are signatories to the Rome Statute that created the “International Criminal Court”, whose ”warrant” for the Russian leader’s arrest last year was what the spokesperson was referencing with regard to their displeasure at him traveling freely. Moreover, while the purpose of his upcoming trip hasn’t been officially confirmed, there’s no doubt that it’ll concern bilateral cooperation and isn’t just an opportunity to discuss his views about Ukraine.

By disrespecting Vietnam in the way that it did through their embassy spokesperson’s rude statement, the US is needlessly risking drama in their hard-earned strategic partnership, which was clinched just last year after lengthy negotiations. These former wartime enemies entered into a fast-moving rapprochement at the end of the Old Cold War and have shared goals of managing China’s rise, which is especially important for Vietnam due to its maritime territorial dispute with the People’s Republic.

Even so, Vietnam is far from being a US ally or vassal since it proudly retains its strategic autonomy as proven by the continued cultivation of strategic relations with Russia, who it’s loyally supported despite immense Western pressure to dump that country. Most of its armed forces are supplied with Soviet and Russian wares, and its partner’s energy companies are also exploring offshore deposits. Furthermore, Hanoi will never forget Moscow’s support during the Vietnam War, which forged their brotherly ties.

It’s in this context of Vietnam’s careful balancing act between Russia and the US, which is predicated on obtaining the best possible position vis-à-vis its top trade partner China with whom it’s still embroiled in a fierce maritime territorial dispute, that President Putin will soon pay a visit there. Russia respects Vietnam’s decision to strategically partner with its American rival, but America doesn’t respect Vietnam’s decision to strategically partner with its Russian rival, which isn’t lost on Hanoi.

Nevertheless, Vietnam will still keep the US close since it considers it to be the only realistic counterweight to China in the latter’s namesake Southern Sea that Hanoi calls its East Sea, all while arming itself to the teeth with Russian weaponry just in case a conflict breaks out by miscalculation. As Sino-Filipino tensions continue worsening, the US will likely try to rope Vietnam into this as well so as to increase the pressure on Beijing, but Hanoi won’t ever act against its interests at others’ demands.

That’s always been the case but is even more so now after the US’ ridiculous rebuke over its hosting of President Putin, which reminded policymakers and the public alike that America will always regard itself as the “senior partner” in all of its bilateral relations. This arrogance isn’t just offensive, but it’s also counterproductive from the perspective of the US’ objective national interests since it reduces the chances that others like Vietnam will more closely cooperate with it against third countries like China.

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