July 3 – July 9, 2017

Belarusian-Vietnamese relations as example of Minsk’s foreign policy strategy

The situation has not changed
Belarusian-Vietnamese relations as example of Minsk’s foreign policy strategy

In relations with other states, the Belarusian authorities are primarily after own benefit. Loyalty to foreign policy partners is viewed primarily as a ritual, not a foreign policy imperative. The absence of a value-based foreign policy strategy creates good prerequisites for the growth in exports, including military and dual-use, but precludes the formation of allied relations.

During the visit of Vietnamese President Chiang Dai Kuang to Belarus, among other issues, the parties have discussed bilateral cooperation on security and defence. Belarus has expressed interest and readiness to deepen relations in this field. That said, Minsk has not been confused by the fact that Hanoi is a regional rival of Beijing. Moreover, China and Vietnam have territorial disputes, periodically threatening to develop into armed confrontation.

Since the times of the Soviet Union, Vietnam has been a traditional partner for the post-Soviet space. Hanoi has become one of the largest customers of the Belarusian military-industrial complex, primarily in the air defence field. Minsk hopes that Vietnam would lobby Belarus’ interests in South-East Asia. This is probably why Belarus is ready to cooperate with Vietnam on almost any sensitive issue, including the transfer of military technology and the creation of joint ventures.

Minsk appears to ignore the specifics of Sino-Vietnamese relations. Beijing (which is otherwise known as a strategic ally in Minsk) and Hanoi remain many tough antagonists, including because of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East-Vietnamese Sea. Apparently, the Belarusian leadership is firmly confident of its ability to become a strategic partner for both sides in the confrontation, simultaneously.

Conventionally, Belarus’ foreign policy is an extremely pragmatic one. Minsk in most cases ignores the contradictions between its partners, seeking to withdraw them from the bilateral agenda as far as possible. The lack of value component in relations with other states and Belarus’ readiness for broad cooperation in the security field, including the technology transfer, is a competitive advantage of the domestic military-industrial complex. It creates good prerequisites for the growth in exports of military and dual-use produces. However, winning in one, Belarus loses in another: pragmatism on the verge of unscrupulousness prevents Minsk from forming truly allied relations with its partners.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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