In light of Vietnam's recent celebration of national liberation and reunification, and celebrations marking the end of WWII and Russia's victory in the Great Patriotic War, Thanh Nien Weekly talks with Russian Ambassador Andrei G. Kovtun about the ties that still bind the two long-time allies.
Thanh Nien Weekly: Russia is one of Vietnam's oldest friends. In Vietnam, when we celebrate Reunification Day, we also celebrate what we call "Dong Doi", or same side, meaning the friendships that have historically been on the "same side" as Vietnam. In what ways do Russia and Vietnam still share a special relationship?
Andrei G. Kovtun: In a sense, we can really call each other "brother-soldiers," since Russia and Vietnam were together, or as you say "on one side" during the Vietnamese people's struggle for national liberation, and postwar reconstruction. We are proud that the Soviet Union contributed to the glorious victory of the heroic people of Vietnam in 1975, providing considerable moral and material assistance. No wonder that Soviet tanks T-54, managed by Vietnamese tank crews, were the first to enter the [presidential] Independence Palace in Saigon.
When the young, war-ravaged Vietnamese state was in the difficult conditions caused by the economic embargo by many countries, the Soviet Union remained among the reliable partners, assisting in building the core industry of Vietnam. We continue to be together today, when your country has demonstrated the highest dynamics of economic development, consistently increasing its regional and international capacity.
In these days of May, when the world is solemnly celebrating the victory over fascism, in Russia we remember the summer and autumn of 1941 when, during the fierce battles near Moscow, Vietnamese soldiers-internationalists fought shoulder to shoulder with Soviet citizens in the Red Army. For their courage and bravery shown in combat against the Nazis, five of them were posthumously awarded the Order of Patriotic War first degree. I think it was a very significant and meaningful fact that President Nguyen Minh Triet participated in the May 9th celebrations in the Red Square to mark the 65th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.
As the world commemorates the 65th anniversary of WWII, what is the most important lesson for peace that we should remember?
The Great Patriotic War, without exaggeration, was the most important event of the twentieth century. Its lessons have not lost its relevance today. One of the most important, though extremely painful lessons, of the war against fascism is the inadmissibility of one country's seeking of solutions for its security problems by undermining the security and sovereignty of others. The events of that time clearly demonstrated that complicity in violence, indifference and temporizing would be fraught with disastrous consequences. The Great Victory taught mankind to appreciate the true partnership, commitment to the collective efforts and seek joint solutions to global problems.
These principles underlie the work of the UN, which was formed following the Second World War. I think one of the key tasks of modern humanity is to preserve and further strengthen the UN, which is the basic building block of international relations and -a reliable guarantor of peace and security on the planet.
Russian businesses and investment in Vietnam seems moderate compared to other countries. Why
On the one hand, you are right: the volume of Russian investment in Vietnam, as well as indicators of bilateral trade and economic cooperation in general, is far below the potential... Today, both sides at various levels are making efforts to solve this problem, to create favorable conditions for Russian companies in Vietnam and Vietnamese entrepreneurs in Russia. I think that today we can speak about positive trends in this area.
It is noteworthy that in 2009, despite the global economic and financial crisis, the volume of trade between our two countries not only did not decline, but on the contrary slightly increased...
Russia and Vietnam are currently planning to move to a new stage of strategic partnership.
Foreign visitors to Vietnam often wonder why there is such a huge Russian presence in Vung Tau and Mui Ne. Can you throw some light on this?
This is partly related to my previous answer. Located in Vung Tau is the largest object of Russian -Vietnamese cooperation a joint venture for oil and gas on the continental shelf of Vietnam, Vietsovpetro. Without exaggeration, for nearly 30 years the company has been the living embodiment of traditional friendship between the peoples of our countries, a positive example of productive synergies in the common interest. Thanks to professional, cohesive and dedicated work of the Vietnamese and Russian workers, Vietsovpetro now ranks among the most efficient oil companies in the world, holding leading positions in the industry of Vietnam in general.
As for Mui Ne, this resort town is very popular among Russian tourists.
Russia's "soft power," ie its economic, science/technology and cultural/sports influences, has faded in many countries, such as Vietnam. Is there any plan to strengthen it again?
May I disagree with you. Perhaps, compared with the times of the Soviet Union, we might get the impression that Russia's presence in terms of humanities has declined. But I think that is misleading.
I think the Russian "soft power" keeps its influence. As you know, in February of this year, for the first time in the history of Russian-Vietnamese relations, the Minister of Culture of our country Alexander Avdeev visited Vietnam. The negotiations culminated in tangible results in terms of further development of bilateral cooperation in the sphere of culture. Both sides signed a cooperation program in this area until 2012 and reached specific agreement on holding the Days of Russian Culture in Vietnam and the Vietnamese Cultural Days in Russia, on the participation of a Russian delegation in the celebration of Hanoi's millennium anniversary.
Vietnam and Russia have enjoyed close military ties in the past. Do you see a strengthening of these ties in times of peace?
Cooperation in military technology, defense and security in general is one of the key directions of development of relations between our countries. The mutual trust that we enjoy plays a very important role, as well as the willingness to intensify cooperation in this field.
Most recently, in March, after twelve years of hiatus, Russian Minister of Defense of Russia Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov visited Vietnam. The talks were very productive. Currently, both sides continue to work together to implement the agreements reached.
In the post-cold-war scenario, what do you see Russia's role as in maintaining peace and stability?
In the 1990s, for a number of reasons our country had to face certain difficulties. But we managed to overcome them. Today, Russia is indeed stronger and able to assume greater responsibility for solving problems on a regional and global scale.
Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a member of the Group of Twenty, the Group of Eight and a number of other influential international and regional organizations and mechanisms for inter-state dialogue and cooperation. Our country has great potential and resources in all areas of life and an active foreign policy. Russia has a significant influence on the formation of a new architecture of international relations.
There is a perception among some people that Vietnamese migrants are no longer as welcome in Russia as they once were. How would you respond to that?
Once again I do not agree with you. The Russian people are known for their hospitality. We care for newcomers from other countries. The main thing is how to help our guests comply with Russian laws and regulations on residing in Russia. I believe that the Vietnamese living in Russia make a significant contribution to strengthening and developing bilateral cooperation in trade and in the economic sphere. Moreover, I think they are a kind of "friendship bridge" between Russia and Vietnam.