Vietnamese Ambassador to Russia Nguyen Thanh Sean says that his country is not opposed to the Russian Navy returning to the base in Cam Ranh Bay, on the condition that its presence is not directed against any third country. Will Russia take the opportunity to regain a foothold in Southeast Asia? Svobodnaya Pressa journalist Anton Mardasov explores.
Speaking to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti earlier this week, Nguyen Thanh Sean explained that “Vietnam’s policy is not to enter military alliances or to ally with any one state against another.”
During the interview, Nguyen Thanh Sean also said that Hanoi plans to continue defense cooperation with Russia, and added that Vietnam has always considered Russia to be “a close country, and a traditional partner,” and that a “relationship of trust with Russia is a priority of Vietnamese foreign policy.”
Analyzing the diplomat’s remarks, Russian journalist Anton Mardasov recalled the origins of the Soviet/Russian base at Cam Ranh Bay, and the prospects for the Russian Navy’s further use of the base in an article for the independent newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa.
“It’s worth recalling,” the columnist wrote, “that in 1979, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam provided the naval facilities at the Cam Ranh Bay port to the Soviet Union 25 years rent-free. The Soviet military rebuilt and expanded the base. Modestly called a ‘Material-Technical Support Point’, the facility was actually a powerful base for the 17th Operational Squadron of the Soviet Navy.”
“At any one time, the facility simultaneously hosted 8-10 surface ships, 4-8 submarines, and supply vessels. The Cam Ranh base allowed the Pacific Fleet to control the southern Pacific, and the entire Indian Ocean. In 2001, the Russian government made the decision not to renew the lease with Vietnam and to evacuate the base ahead of schedule.”
Soon after, “in February 2014, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russia would be expanding its military presence in the world: that there were negotiations on the deployment of military facilities in countries including Vietnam and Cuba, as well as ‘active [negotiations] with the Seychelles, Singapore, Algeria, Cyprus, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and several other countries.’ Shoigu noted that the area around the equator, and other regions of the world would be necessary to provide refueling for Russian long range aviation. In the spring of 2014, the airbase at Cam Ranh was used for the first time to carry out maintenance of Il-78 aircraft, the type used to refuel the Tu-95MS strategic bomber.”
Finally, Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of the Export Vooruzheny military magazine, told Svobodnaya Pressa that on the one hand, the discussions “about Russia’s imminent return to Cam Ranh is still only talk. On the other, it is a good opportunity to return our country the status of a great power, for relatively little money.”
“Undoubtedly, military facilities in the Asia-Pacific region would simplify the tasks of strategic aviation, and of warships of the Pacific Fleet, which head out to the Indian Ocean to combat piracy and conduct exercises with the Indian Navy. Still, in my opinion, a presence at Cam Ranh is not a question of paramount importance for Russia. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details: in any case, renting the base will cost money, and it’s one thing if the Vietnamese demand tens of millions of dollars, and another if we can come to an agreement via barter.”
Ultimately, Frolov noted, “at the moment, it’s enough for Russia to be able to freely enter Cam Ranh – an agreement on this is already in place. Over the last 10 years Russia has not faced any serious [military] tasks in this region, and the ships of the Pacific Fleet (usually in the configuration of a large anti-submarine ship, a tanker and a rescue vessel) already have the opportunity to enter Cam Ranh to refuel.”
Full article: Russian Navy is Returning to Cam Ranh Bay (Spacewar)