Ambassadors in Vietnam call on Hanoi to support Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion

The unusual intervention comes after Vietnam abstained from voting on a UN resolution
By Roseanne Gerin
2022.03.10
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A cyclist and a motorbike driver ride past the Embassy of Denmark in Hanoi, Vietnam, in a file photo.
Associated Press

Nearly two dozen ambassadors from the European Union, Norway, Switzerland and the United States serving in Vietnam have called on Hanoi to support Ukraine, following the Southeast Asian nation’s abstention in a vote on a United Nations resolution on Russian aggression against the Eastern European country.

At an emergency session in New York on March 2, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the resolution demanding that Russia immediately end its invasion of Ukraine and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces by an overwhelming majority of 141 member states backing the measure, with only five against and 35 abstentions. A dozen member states did not vote.

Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Russia and Syria were the nations among the 193-member world body that voted against the resolution.

Vietnam and Laos were the two countries among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) that abstained on the resolution. Russia’s ally China also abstained.

“Given the geographical distance, it is natural that Vietnam has its own interests and some different viewpoints to those of us in Europe,” said the op-ed signed by 22 ambassadors in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. “But in this time of crisis we must all focus on the fundamental question of whether it is justified for Russia, a big country, to bully and invade its neighbor Ukraine, in order to try and redraw boundaries on the map against international rules?”

“Is it in Vietnam’s interests for the world to be ruled by that logic rather than international law and peaceful settlement of disputes?” the piece asked.

The diplomats acknowledged Vietnam’s important historical relationship with the former Soviet Union, which served as benefactor and ally to the smaller communist nation after the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it focused on its own political and economic reordering and no longer subsidized poor developing countries like Vietnam, which had racked up billions of dollars in outstanding debt to Soviet Russia.

The ambassadors made reference to Vietnam’s wartime experiences, saying that this is why the country knows that it important to fight for freedom and to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Vietnam, like Europe, understands very well what the people of Ukraine are going through,” they wrote.

“And it is precisely because of these bitter memories of war and because we all value real peace, that we should all stand together with the people of Ukraine and the overwhelming majority of the international community and call for an end to this unjust conflict,” the ambassadors said.

The op-ed also mentioned that Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor is having an effect on the global economy, supply chain shortages and rising inflation.

“Energy, transport, commodity and food prices have all spiked. None of this will benefit Vietnam,” they wrote.

In conclusion, the diplomats implored Vietnam to share their view that de-escalation and withdrawal are the right actions for legal and humanitarian reasons as well as correct political choice for Russia for the international community for the sake of peace and stability.

Though the U.N. vote surpassed the two-thirds majority required to be approved. Though General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, they carry political weight, in this case demonstrating strong international support for Ukraine and isolating Russia.

There was no mention of the op-ed in Vietnam’s state media.

Much of the Vietnamese media’s coverage of the military action in Ukraine has been pro-Moscow, though less pro-Russia bias than when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Hundreds of Vietnamese have been evacuated from Ukraine in recent days.

On Feb. 25, the day after Russia began what it calls a “military operation” in Ukraine, Le Thi Thu Hang, spokesperson of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the country was deeply concerned with the armed conflict.

“We call on all relevant parties to exercise restraint, observe the United Nations Charter and the fundamental principles of international law, avoid the use of force, protect the people, and keep up dialogue to seek a peaceful solution,” she said in a statement.

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