It appears Washington is losing some control among its allies. Amid a flurry of high-level visits to Vietnam last year, the US has been pouring in aid and assistance in health, education, landmines clearance, scholarships and nuclear energy. The reason is now becoming clear. As Reuters reports, Vietnam has been allowing Russia to use a former US military base to refuel nuclear-capable bombers as it rattles its sabre over the Asia-Pac region.. and America would like that to stop: "we have urged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Russia is not able to use its access to Cam Ranh Bay to conduct activities that could raise tensions in the region." All that was missing was the "or else."
As Reuters reports, the United States has asked Vietnam to stop letting Russia use a former U.S. base to refuel nuclear-capable bombers engaged in shows of strength over the Asia-Pacific region, exposing strains in Washington's steadily warming relations with Hanoi...
It is the first time that U.S. officials have confirmed the role of Cam Ranh Bay, a natural deep-water harbor, in Russian bomber plane activity that has increased globally.
Brooks said the planes that circled Guam were refueled by Russian tankers flying from the strategic bay, which was transformed by the Americans during the Vietnam War into a massive air and naval base.
Vietnam's willingness to allow Russia to use Cam Ranh Bay reflects Hanoi's complex position in a geopolitical tug-of-war that frequently pits China and Russia on one side and the United States, Japan and much of Southeast Asia on the other.
Washington is keen to secure greater access itself to Cam Ranh Bay as part of its strategic "pivot" to Asia to counter China's growing strength in the region. U.S. ships have visited for repairs in recent years.
Vietnam, in turn, has sought closer U.S. ties as a hedge against what it sees as China's aggression, but remains close to Russia in both defense and energy cooperation.
Cam Ranh Bay is now host to three submarines bought by Vietnam's navy from Russia to counter Chinese expansion in the South China Sea, with two more expected by early next year.
Brooks said in an interview the flights indicated that Vietnam's Cold War-era ally Russia was acting as "a spoiler to our interests and the interests of others."
Asked about the Russian flights in the region, the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington respected Hanoi's right to enter agreements with other countries.
But the official added: "We have urged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Russia is not able to use its access to Cam Ranh Bay to conduct activities that could raise tensions in the region."
The Vietnamese government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.S. request.
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And how will the US 'ensure' this happens...
U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said on Friday it was understandable Hanoi would look to "historic partners" when it came to security, but the United States had "much to offer... to enhance Vietnam's security in the short, medium and long term."
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It seems not everyone sees Russia as the isolated nation The West would prefer.