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What to Make of the US Selling Weapons to Vietnam | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

What to Make of the US Selling Weapons to Vietnam

It’s just over 40 years since Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of US personnel from Saigon, ended one of the most controversial chapters in recent US history. The Vietnam War was a creature of its time – a post-colonial independence movement that slowly morphed into one of the largest proxy conflicts of the Cold War. For the USA, it was an attempt to stop the spread of communist influence in Asia; the North Vietnamese saw it as the last stage in freeing their country of western rule. Regardless of the causes, it was a traumatic event that’s left an enduring mark on the American psyche. So, what are we to make of the fact that the US government started easing its ban on weapon sales to Vietnam last year?

The answer to that question obviously depends on your view of the situation in Southeast Asia and what you think the USA should be doing about it. Should the USA even be doing anything about it? Perhaps; perhaps not. There’s no appetite for direct intervention any more – the events of 1975 put the lid on that – but there are a lot of key US allies in the region. As America turns its focus to the growing economies of the Pacific it seems like a good idea to at least keep a protective eye on the country’s friends there. Is Vietnam a threat to those friends? The answer to that has to be a definite no.

Officially Vietnam is one of the world’s surviving one-party communist states but the reality is slightly different. It’s still one-party but isn’t recognizably communist any more. As long ago as 1992, political commentator PJ O’Rourke described Hanoi and Saigon as bustling capitalist cities where “the locals had let go of Karl Marx with both hands.” In 1990 the government reversed the nationalization of property, abolished price controls and liberalized the economy. Vietnam is now one of the fastest-developing countries in Asia.

Lockheed P-3 OrionAnd Vietnam is no friend of the USA’s greatest potential rival in the region – China. The two countries have a long and often tense history; before the French added Vietnam to its empire, the Chinese ruled it on and off for several hundred years and the Vietnamese never quite forgave them for it. In 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to remove the insane Khmer Rouge regime there. That annoyed China, who had been backing the murderous Pol Pot for years, and in retaliation they invaded northern Vietnam in February 1979. The Vietnamese fought back, ferociously. When the war ended a month later both sides claimed victory, but there were no Chinese troops left on Vietnamese soil and Hanoi’s army was still firmly in control of Cambodia. Draw your own conclusions about who won.

And it’s China that still occupies Vietnam’s attention today. One of the most destabilizing trends right now is Beijing’s expansionist policies in the South China Sea and Vietnam has a stake in that, most importantly around the Spratly Islands. There’s a real possibility of renewed conflict between the two nations, and if that were to happen the USA would be quietly but firmly on Vietnam’s side. The problem is that, while Vietnam’s armed forces are tough and professional, they lack modern equipment; while IWI has set up a factory in the country to replace the army’s AKs with Galils, and some small deliveries of more modern Russian equipment have been made since the 1990s, most of their inventory is Vietnam War-era Soviet and US kit. That puts them at a big disadvantage against the best equipped Chinese formations.

In 2014 the US partly lifted its ban on selling weapons to Vietnam, allowing some naval and air equipment to be sold. Officially, this was to recognize Vietnam’s improving human rights record, but it’s an open secret that the real reason is to stiffen Vietnam’s ability to resist Chinese pressure. Now there are calls for the administration to go further. Senator John McCain, speaking at the ISS summit, called on the White House to gradually dismantle the remaining restrictions apart from the ban on crowd control equipment. As a young A-4 Skyhawk pilot McCain was shot down near the North Vietnamese capital in October 1967 and spent more than five years imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he was routinely tortured; it’s hard to write him off as an appeaser.

McCain’s appeal looks to be driven by a pragmatic assessment of the situation in the South China Sea, and he’s probably pushing at an open door. It’s very clearly not in the US’s interests for China to be able to intimidate its neighbors at will, and supplying modern weapons to Vietnam is a major step towards that. China has far larger armed forces to call on and the best units are much better equipped, but the bulk of the People’s Liberation Army has similar gear to the Vietnamese and history suggests that the NVA is better at using it. There’s no doubting Vietnam’s willingness to resist pressure and, if they have a technological edge as well, the Chinese are likely to think twice before treading on them. In the 20th century the USSR and China used Vietnam as a proxy against the west; now, in the 21st, the time might be right to turn it around on them.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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7 thoughts on “What to Make of the US Selling Weapons to Vietnam

  1. Over the time, the large giants like China, India and Russian Federation in the mainland region of Asia will indeed unite, as being yet today under the BRICS close Alliance building in Euroasia – I guess the Viet-Nâm will soon fit within this Pan-asian union building – old European and post-European colonies, like America, will soon have nothing to say around the mainland Asian affairs and Asian tigers like Viet-Nâm – it’s totally their own business. The United States are the largest geopolitical loser in the new future Euroasian Alliance building, as the new refound allies China and Russia have together put an end to that future influence.

  2. Since there’s only one Vietnam now, wouldn’t the NVA be now called Vietnamese People’s Army or something like that?

      1. Yup, PAVN it is. Actually, even during the big war between two Vietnams, PAVN was the official name of the NVA. Most books on the subject refer to the North’s ground forces as the NVA but others like ‘We were Soldiers once…. and Young’ used the PAVN title.

        I haven’t actually seen pictures of modern PAVN troops apart from honour guards…. don’t know if they’re dressed the same as that time (sun helmets and olive uniforms) and use the same small arms (AK-47/AKM).

        1. well we still used ak47/akm ( for training we used the chinese type56 and keep the akm to used when shit happend ) but we also have new rifle ( gali ace 32/31 ) and we also used M18 ( early day m4 ) for recon force with silencer , the marine used israel Tavor ( shorter version for commando vv ) the special force used mix of tavor/mirco uzi/akm , the mobile police ( they are police but with more military train and in war will be used at a special urban commando unit ) are arms with MP5 ( with optic vv ) they also have alot of sniper rifle from western country , the army sniper force used gali sniper , svd . the paramilitary ( aka local militia force ) used m16/sks/chinese ak , m1 cacbin , m1 garand vv older type weapon that the army keep in stock for them . the uniform now day are camoflag woodland one ( K07 the name of the uniform and camoflag ) still used the sun helmet for training and farming ( our soldier farm in rest time ) so they can have more meat and clean food ( save the army alot of money to buy weapon and built new barrack vv )but in combat you will see kevlar helmet and body armored , the aa and army crew some still used steel helmet, navy sailor also still used steel helmet + unit down in south still used steel helmet ( m1 ) leftover during vietnam cause most of modern weapon will go to unit up north to face china . you will never see body armored on training soldier cause they keep in stock only when war happend will be issue and only the border guard are using them cause they have to fight drug smugler who have ak and weapon that gona kill them on partrol , the marines used israel kit of body armored and helmet with korean woodland cloth . all the special force unit have night vision , army unit will have night vision scope for few of they troop ,night vision are being made in vietnam but wont be mass issue maybe only elite division gona have them and special unit + marines . ( all the special force + marines have scope or somekind of optic + red dot ( the red dot are israeli one ) normal inf unit will only get night vision scope for few of they troop

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