Rolling out the red carpet for Putin

THE COUNTRY prepared to roll out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin in a visit seen as a publicity coup for the Russian president, who is accused of war crimes in Ukraine, while bringing benefits and risks for Hanoi’s Communist leaders.

Although both North Korea – where Putin previously met Kim Jong-un on a diplomatic trip – and Russia face international isolation, Vietnam has built careful alliances with the United States and the European Union.

The US has already condemned Hanoi’s hosting of Putin.

That makes the Hanoi stop of Putin’s tour especially important for the Russian leader, said Alexander Vuving of the Hawaii-based Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies.

“Russia wants to send the message that it has friends everywhere in the world and that the West’s effort to isolate Russia is futile,” Vuving said, adding that Hanoi has its own interests beyond the two countries’ shared Communist roots.

Tens of thousands of cadres studied in the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, including the current head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong.“Russia plays a unique and critical role in Vietnam’s foreign policy,” he said, noting that Moscow has been a major arms supplier to Hanoi.

Russia was hit with US-led Western sanctions after it invaded neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022 in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

In March 2023, the Hague-based International Criminal Court’s (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine – charges he denies.

Neither Vietnam nor Russia are members of the ICC.

Vietnam will be the third country Putin has visited, after China and North Korea, since he was sworn in for a fifth term in May.

He has travelled abroad little since the ICC warrant was issued.

The US, which upgraded diplomatic relations with Hanoi last year and is Vietnam’s top trading partner, opposed Putin’s visit.

“No country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalise his atrocities,” a spokesperson for the US embassy in Hanoi said this week.

Vietnam pursues what it calls “bamboo diplomacy”, maintaining good relations with world powers despite those powers’ animosity toward one another. — Reuters

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