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    Ties That Bind: Why US Lifting Arms Ban on Vietnam Could Be Good for Russia

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    The US has lifted its decades-long arms embargo on Vietnam, prompting some to say that Hanoi will gradually turn from a big buyer of Russian weapons into one of the leading importers of US-made military hardware, but experts doubt this will happen. In fact, Moscow could even benefit from Washington's decision.

    Vietnam is the eight largest weapons buyer; its defense budget ($4.3 billion in 2014) and military spending are increasing.

    "Thanks to its growing military budget and its strained relations with China, Vietnam has become a major Russian weapons buyer" in recent years, Richard Weitz wrote for the National Interest. In addition, Hanoi "has arguably been Russia's closest strategic partner in Southeast Asia," he added.

    Soldiers parade in front of the mausoleum of late president Ho Chi Minh, founder of today's communist Vietnam, as the communist regime celebrates its 70th anniversary in Hanoi on September 2, 2015.
    © AFP 2019 / HOANG DINH NAM
    Soldiers parade in front of the mausoleum of late president Ho Chi Minh, founder of today's communist Vietnam, as the communist regime celebrates its 70th anniversary in Hanoi on September 2, 2015.

    This trend, many agree, will likely remain intact.

    "Russia has always been willing to get them whatever they required," Collin Koh of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore told Bloomberg. "Vietnam is not going to want to jeopardize that relationship."

    Andrey Frolov, editor-in-chief of the Export Vooruzheny magazine, suggested that Obama's decision was more of a formality that will not really change anything. "I think that it has more to do with a legal basis that would make arms sales possible. I don't think that Vietnam will rush to buy US weapons tomorrow," he told the Vzglyad business newspaper.

    Defense analyst Konstantin Sivkov offered a more detailed explanation. The expert pointed out that those countries, who import weapons, tend to either rely on a single supplier or buy from an array of partners. The latter need a more complex, costly and advanced system aimed at managing the armed forces.

    Vietnamese sailors gather on the deck of Vietnamese frigate Ly Thai To (HQ-012) as the sun sets at Manila bay, Philippines Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014
    © AP Photo / Aaron Favila
    Vietnamese sailors gather on the deck of Vietnamese frigate Ly Thai To (HQ-012) as the sun sets at Manila bay, Philippines Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

    Poll

    The main reason for America lifting their embargo on Vietnam is:
    • Healing relations 41 years after the end of the Vietnam War
      2.1% (128)
    • Opening a new market for US weapons
      13.2% (801)
    • Creating an anti-Chinese bloc to encircle Beijing
      84.7% (5129)
    Voted: 1
    For instance, if Vietnam decided to switch to US planes, it would have to invest in additional training, equipment, funds, etc.
    "Vietnam is not a wealthy nation" that will hardly afford buying weapons in different countries, Sivkov noted. "They will likely maintain a more uniform and comprehendible procurement strategy."

    The most likely scenario will see Hanoi buying several pieces of American equipment "to familiarize itself" with US-made weapons and military hardware, but bulk deliveries, according to the analyst is out of the question.

    It follows then that Russian arms suppliers have nothing to worry about. In fact, they could even turn the situation to their own advantage.

    "We could benefit from [Obama's decision to lift the embargo]," Sivkov noted. "Perhaps, we could learn some of the features of US-made weapons this way… That is if our policy is reasonable."

    Related:

    Charm Offensive: This is Why Russia Bolstering Ties With ASEAN Nations
    US Vietnam Arms Embargo Lift a 'Wake-Up Call' for Russia? Not Really…
    US Unlikely to Reap Arms Sales Bonanza From Vietnam - Ex-Envoy
    Lifting of Arms Embargo Won't End Vietnam's Special Partnership With Russia
    Tags:
    arms import, arms sales, military cooperation, weapons, bilateral relations, arms embargo, United States, Vietnam, Russia
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