Vietnam shifts gears on arms trade as it loosens ties with Russia

Vietnam shifts gears on arms trade as it loosens ties with Russia

By Francesco Guarascio and Khanh Vu

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam is considering a major defense shift as it seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian arms and launch a drive to export locally-made weapons, officials and officials said. analysts, with possible buyers in Africa, Asia – and potentially even Moscow.

The Southeast Asian nation is one of the world’s 20 biggest arms buyers amid on-and-off tensions with China, with an estimated annual budget for arms imports of around $1 billion. and that is expected to increase, according to GlobalData, a military supply provider. intelligence.

Most of that money has historically gone to Russia, which for decades was Vietnam’s main supplier of weapons and defense systems. This has made Vietnam one of the top buyers of Russian arms, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks global military spending.

But that is changing as Vietnam strives to become more self-sufficient, obtain advanced equipment that Russia cannot supply and faces Western pressure to reduce arms purchases from Moscow in part of its invasion of Ukraine, analysts said.

Instead, Vietnam is turning to suppliers from Europe, East Asia, India, Israel and the United States, diplomats, officials and analysts said. It has also bolstered its domestic military industry with support from Israel and other partners, and hopes to export weapons, analysts and officials said.

Nguyen The Phuong, Nguyen The Phuong, a former defense researcher at Vietnam National University and now at the University of New South Wales, Australia, said there were even internal discussions in October on whether the country should sell weapons to Russia – although no decision was seen as imminent.

The Russian embassy in Hanoi and Vietnam’s defense and foreign ministries did not comment.

Starting Thursday, the country will host its first major international arms trade fair, for which more than 170 companies from 30 countries have registered, the defense ministry said.

These include Western firms such as US defense contractor Lockheed Martin and France’s Nexter, as well as defense groups from Israel, India, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

The three-day event in Hanoi will help Vietnam “diversify supply channels and sources of technologies to produce military equipment for the country’s armies and for export,” the ministry said in a statement in November.


The country’s defense industry produces armed vehicles and small arms, such as anti-tank rockets, grenade launchers and machine guns, Phuong said.

He added that Vietnam had started to develop more high-tech systems, including drones, radars and anti-ship missiles, often in partnership with foreign companies.

The Defense Ministry referred questions about the country’s defense industry to the Foreign Ministry, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week, the Ministry of Defense said in its official gazette that the Vietnamese military company Z111 would display pistols, machine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles at the arms fair, with the aim of exporting them. .

Dozens of Vietnamese defense companies, including military-controlled Viettel, will also display their products. The government and military companies do not publish sales data.

Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher at SIPRI, said Vietnam’s known production capabilities were very limited, with only small reconnaissance drones having been delivered in the past decade – although the country had increased its assembly capacity by radars, missiles and ships designed by foreign partners.

Potential buyers of small arms would most likely be Vietnam’s neighboring Laos and African countries, where Vietnam could offer competitive prices, said Ha Hoang Hop, a military procurement expert and visiting scholar at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. based in Singapore.

Phuong said Latin American countries and other Southeast Asian countries are other potential customers.

Half a dozen Russian defense companies are registered at the Hanoi fair, including Rosoboronexport, the state agency that imports and exports weapons.


Hop said Vietnam is negotiating possible deals to import satellites and other dual-use products from partners other than Russia.

This would accelerate a downward trend in Russian arms imports, the value of which fell to just $72 million last year (30% of overall imports) from a peak of $1 billion in 2014, which represented this nearly 90% of the total that year, according to SIPRI. .

Imports from Russia have fallen every year since then, except last year, when they recovered slightly after the nadir of 2020. In that year, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced Vietnam’s military imports to only 32 million dollars, including 9 million dollars of Russian weapons.

In recent years, Vietnam has purchased military hardware from new suppliers, including the United States, Israel, the Netherlands and South Korea, according to SIPRI data.

With the war in Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special operation”, Vietnam seems to have accelerated diversification.

India, Israel and Eastern European countries are better positioned as alternative suppliers because they can supply weapons compatible with Russian systems which still make up 80% of Vietnam’s arsenal, analysts say.

For more advanced systems, West or East Asian manufacturers may also be potential suppliers, said Carl Thayer, an expert in Vietnamese diplomacy at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra.

(This story has been reclassified to change analyst affiliation in paragraph 6)

(Additional reporting by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen; Writing by Francesco Guarascio. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

#Vietnam #shifts #gears #arms #trade #loosens #ties #Russia

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *