Putin shores up support from Vietnam, North Korea amid Ukraine war

Vietnam and Russia issued a joint statement pledging to strengthen their comprehensive strategic partnership.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to bolster ties with traditional allies in Asia during a rare overseas trip this week, stopping first in North Korea before arriving in Vietnam on Thursday.

The visits come as Russia grows increasingly isolated from Western nations over its invasion of Ukraine. Putin reached agreements to deepen cooperation with the pariah state of North Korea as well as Vietnam, a country that has tried to stay neutral in the conflict.

According to Russian state media, Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement in Pyongyang. The deal reportedly involves North Korea supplying Russia with ammunition and other military supplies to aid its war effort in Ukraine.

Putin landed in the Vietnamese capital on Thursday for a two-day state visit. He was welcomed by President Vo Van Thuong before meetings with other top officials.

Following talks, Vietnam and Russia issued a joint statement pledging to strengthen their comprehensive strategic partnership. They signed over 10 agreements, including one on civil nuclear energy cooperation.

Thuong said at a press conference that the two countries would increase cooperation in defence and security. However, the details of the agreements remain unclear.

Vietnam, which has deep historical ties to Russia dating back to the Soviet era, has tried to stay neutral regarding Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The country has not joined Western-led sanctions against Russia.

For Putin, the visits to Pyongyang and Hanoi represent a chance to show he still has allies willing to cooperate with Moscow. It was his first trip to Vietnam since the start of the Ukraine war over 15 months ago.

At home, Putin’s position has grown increasingly precarious amid battlefield setbacks and a deadly rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group. The short-lived mutiny exposed vulnerabilities in Putin’s grip on power.

While strengthening ties in Asia, Putin likely aims to secure additional resources and project an image of Russia not being fully isolated on the world stage. However, many nations remain deeply concerned about enabling Putin’s war in Ukraine.