Russia left Cam Ranh for nowhere

The ferryboat Sakhalin-9 arrived at the Vietnamese port of Cam Ranh on April 24. The boat will carry equipment that was dismantled from the former Russian base to the city of Vladivostok.

Cam Ranh was built by Americans in the middle of the 1960s. The base in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, was used by the Pentagon to bomb the territories that were controlled by Vietnamese guerrillas. American President Lyndon B. Johnson visited the base and stated that the stars and stripes would blow in the wind there forever. B-52 bomber planes used to take off from that base during the period of the war in Vietnam. Cam Ranh was the base where Americans started their experiments with dolphins, using the animals to destroy enemy ships and divers. America released the information later, and it became known that trained dolphins killed up to 60 Vietnamese divers that were trying to blow up American vessels. It is interesting that the US Congress gave permission to the US Navy to catch 25 dolphins and sealions for national defense purposes, in spite of the fact that such hunting was prohibited.

After the war in Vietnam was over, and after American troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam, Moscow hoped that Hanoi would rent the base to the USSR. Moscow was longing to have the Soviet naval fleet on the shores of Vietnam in order to change the correlation of forces in the Pacific military theatre and undermine the American monopoly with its bases in the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea. However, Vietnam did not rush to help the USSR.

Vietnam agreed to hand Cam Ranh over to Moscow due to China, which decided to teach Hanoi a lesson in 1979 for overthrowing Beijing’s protege Pol Pot in Cambodia. The Chinese army crossed the Vietnamese border on February 17 and reached Vietnam’s capital in a month's time. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union held an urgent session, at which it was decided to send a special envoy to Beijing with an ultimatum to “Chinese supremacists.” While the Chinese army was attacking Vietnamese trenches, units of the Soviet army were conducting “a psychological attack” on the border between the USSR and China, and vessels of the Pacific fleet were heading to the Yellow and South China Seas. Beijing understood everything at once, and Chinese troops were quickly withdrawn from Vietnam.

The governments of the USSR and Vietnam signed the agreement on the use of Cam Ranh base. The document was signed on May 2, 1979, and it actually stipulated the free use of the base for the period of 25 years. The base experienced its triumph during the Cold War era. After the USSR collapsed, Russia did not care much about the base. Russia has not used Cam Ranh for several years, and the question vanished gradually by itself. A part of its territories was given back to Vietnam, and the Russian personnel made up some 40 people. The base was turning into some kind of forgotten civilization, which was slowly drowning in the jungle. The ships of the Pacific navy entered the base once evert in several months. However, the question was who was the enemy in South East Asia, or was there an enemy at all? Cam Ranh was waiting for political and strategic decisions: what should be done, and for which war should it be prepared? The rent agreement was to expire in the year 2004, and the decision was supposed to be made two or three years before that date.

At first, Vladimir Putin was thinking of prolonging the time of the rent, but the events of September 11th crossed those plans out for good. The Russian leadership decided to sacrifice the base due to the considerations of the moment. Americans nodded, but they did not make any concessions to Russia in return. What could Russia do after that? Nothing, just shut the base down.

Russian military men all said that the base was a burden for the budget and that it was a Cold War relic, which it was not good for executing the geo-strategic goals of the army. These are all lies, as well as the statements that said that Russia would always be able to get the base back. Washington and Beijing have their eyes on the base already. Russia has to have enough courage to say that it is leaving the Pacific region forever.

Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov