No Soviet or Russian leader had ever visited Hanoi before Vladimir Putin arrived there last week on a two-day official visit. President Tran Duc Luong set the protocol dial to full swank, but even with 10,000 citizens pumpin’ circumstances at Putin’s departure, it was clear that Bill Clinton’s visit last November stirred greater popular interest. Substantively, Putin signed yet another “strategic partnership” agreement, the heart of which is Russia’s forgiveness of Vietnam’s wartime debt. Vietnam owed the Soviet Union $11 billion; all that has now been canceled, save $1.5 billion payable over twenty-three years. The real test of the partnership may come in 2004, when Russia’s 1979 lease on the U.S.-built facilities at Cam Ranh Bay runs out. Vietnam is willing to extend the lease, at a rent of $200 million per year. Russia’s offer is said to be around $40 million.