Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 222

Russia and Vietnam on November 24 signed a package of intergovernmental agreements and discussed both the sale of Russian military aircraft to Vietnam and possible joint energy projects. But the two sides reportedly failed to make progress on the most important item on their agenda — fixing and resolving Vietnam’s Cold War era debt to Moscow. Russian sources have estimated the debt at over $10 billion, while Vietnam argues that, because the ruble was artificially pegged to the dollar during the Soviet era, the value of the debt today is but a small fraction of that amount. (AP, RIA news agency, November 24)

The November 24 agreements came as Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived in Hanoi to begin a three-day official visit that includes talks with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, President Tran Duc Luong, and Communist Party chief Do Muoi. Chernomyrdin is the highest-ranking Russian political leader to visit Vietnam since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The talks are part of a broader effort aimed at reinvigorating relations between the former Cold War allies and at boosting flagging levels of bilateral trade. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the Soviet Union was Vietnam’s main economic partner. But trade between Russia and Vietnam fell by 50 percent last year, and totaled a mere $300 million, according to Vietnamese figures. (Xinhua, AP, November 24)

In remarks to the press Chernomyrdin nevertheless described Vietnam as a "strategic partner" of Russia and declared that the first day of talks had been a success. He also said that the two sides had focused on trade and economic relations, and that particular attention had been paid to possible cooperation in the fuel and energy sectors. The two countries agreed to boost cooperation in the field of oil and gas production, an effort reflected in a memorandum of understanding signed between Vietnam and the Russian gas giant Gazprom. (Itar-Tass, November 24)

Quadripartite Grouping Will Promote National Interests.