Pragmatic Vietnam disregards sentimental memories about Soviet support

Vietnam is still regarded as a Russia-friendly nation. The relations between the two countries began in the years of the joint struggle against the French colonialism. May 7 marked the day of the 55th anniversary of the final victory of the Vietnamese army at Dien Bien Phu, due to which the country threw centenarian colonial shackles away.

Historians cannot understand how the army formed of peasants managed to capture strong French troops armored with up-to-date heavy artillery, aircraft and tanks. To answer this question, we should mention the courage of the Vietnamese and the talent of the commander-in-chief of the communist Việt Minh army General Giáp. But the main factor was the Soviet support.

In February 1950, the USSR, China and Vietnam came to an agreement that the Soviet Union would provide transit supplies via the Chinese territory to Vietnamese comrades. By that time, the Vietnamese had destroyed French troops on the Chinese border, and the way for the Soviet support was clear. In return, the French built a base in the north of the country, in Dien Bien Phu. France intended to wreck the Soviet supplies and annihilate the whole Việt Minh army. The plans were not materialized: 17,000 French soldiers were caught in a mousetrap.

The triumphant victory would not be possible without the support from the Soviet Union. Firstly, the Soviet Air force helped neutralize the French aviation: the Vietnamese, who had no air force, downed 64 warplanes of the enemy and damaged 150. When the Vietnamese besieged the enemy camp, they cut off the air connection of the enemy with the help of Soviet-made anti-aircraft guns. By the moment of surrender, the French had suffered cruelly from the lack of water, food, medicines and ammunition.

Secondly, the Soviet artillery totally destroyed French defense constructions. Thirdly, secure Soviet trucks from the Molotov Factory supplied the Vietnamese army with all necessary items. General Giáp remembered such an incident: the French aircraft raided a Vietnamese truck convoy on its way to a battlefield. Its commander realized that there was no escape from bombs and desperately led the cars into a precipice. How surprised he was when no driver was killed and there were even no heavy injuries! “The strong cabin of Molotov trucks sustained the impact when falling into the precipice, and the cargo was finally delivered to the troops”, Giáp wrote.

Does the Vietnamese government remember, which country helped its people break free? It surely does, but…

On the one hand, Russia and Vietnam still develop joint projects of oil production on the Vietnamese sea shelf. Russia delivers its weapons to Vietnam.

However, the former friendship has grown a little pale. Ten years ago Vietnam completely supported Moscow’s actions in Kosovo, but during the 2008 South Ossetia war, Hanoi maintained cold neutrality. Vietnam is building pragmatic relations with all countries including the USA and France. Vietnam is not inclined to base its foreign policy on sentimental memories about “the Russian support”.

Sergey Balmasov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov