Strategic Insights from Vietnam: Lessons for the Philippines

The recent visit of President Vladimir Putin to Vietnam can be considered successful and significant. The warm reception he received highlighted the positive relations between Russia and Vietnam. Putin’s visit signals more strengthened bilateral relations between the two countries. It also indicated potential for enhanced cooperation in various sectors such as energy, gas, and finance.

Independent Foreign Policy

Vietnam brushed aside Western criticism of its cooperation with Russia and its neutral position, particularly in the Ukraine Crisis, which could be attributed to several strategic and historical factors.

Vietnam has a long-standing relationship with Russia, dating back to the Soviet era, that fostered significant political, military, and economic ties for Vietnam.

Vietnam pursues a foreign policy of non-alignment, strategic autonomy, and independence. By maintaining neutrality in the Ukraine conflict and continuing its cooperation with Russia, Vietnam underscores its commitment to an independent foreign policy, free from external pressures and coercion.

Likewise, Vietnam adheres to a non-interference principle in other countries’ internal affairs. This principle aligns with its stance on the Ukraine conflict, where it prefers not to take sides in what it views as a complex international issue.

Vietnam recognizes the geopolitical realities and the need to navigate a complex international environment. By maintaining a neutral stance, it avoids alienating key partners while ensuring it remains a relevant player in regional and global affairs. It seeks to balance its relationships with major powers to avoid overreliance on any single country. By engaging with Russia, Vietnam has diversified its strategic partnerships, which are crucial for national security, national interests, and economic development.

Wise Strategic Stance

In geopolitical dynamics, Moscow is viewed as a strategic counterbalance in the context of the US-China rivalry. Vietnam leverages its relationship with Russia to avoid overreliance on the US or China, thus maintaining its strategic autonomy. Vietnam’s policy of non-alignment and multilateralism is complemented by its ties with Russia. By maintaining strong relations with Moscow, Vietnam underscores its commitment to a foreign policy that is not overly influenced by any single major power.

Amid the US-China Rivalry, Vietnam’s relationship with China is complex, marked by economic interdependence and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Russia’s partnership gives Vietnam additional strategic depth in managing its relations with China. While Vietnam values its comprehensive partnership with the US, including economic and security cooperation, it also recognizes the potential risks of being drawn into the US-China rivalry and strategic competition. Russia offers a strategic alternative that helps Vietnam navigate these dynamics.

Indeed, engaging with Russia allows Vietnam to maintain its strategic independence and balance its interactions with the two major powers, the US and China, positioning itself as a player with diverse international relationships and enhancing its global standing and influence.

Conclusion

I hope the Philippines could learn something from Vietnam’s independent foreign policy and neutrality by prioritizing national interests over external pressures, fostering diversified international relations, and maintaining strategic autonomy in decision-making. Embracing neutrality can offer flexibility in navigating global dynamics while safeguarding sovereignty and national and economic interests.

Prof. Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy

Prof. Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development (ISSCAD), Peking University, Beijing, China. She is currently a director and the Vice President for External Affairs of the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute (ACPSSI), a think tank based in Manila. She also serves as the political/geopolitical analyst of ACPSSI. Currently, she is a Senior Researcher of the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) and a Senior Research Fellow of the Global Governance Institution (GGI). She is also the President of Techperformance Corp, an IT-based company in the Philippines. Prof. Anna Uy taught Political Science, International Relations, Development Studies, European Studies, Southeast Asia, and China Studies. She is a researcher-writer, academic, and consultant on a wide array of issues. She has worked as a consultant with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other local and international NGOs.