Cam Ranh was sure to be a topic for President Dmitriy Medvedev’s Vietnam trip. But not a major one if Medvedev foreign policy assistant Sergey Prikhodko is to be believed. Nevertheless, Prikhodko kept alive the idea of renewing some kind of Russian naval presence in Vietnam, whether called a base or a ‘material-technical support point.’ Prikhodko intimates the latter wouldn’t be anything like the former since times have changed so much. Others will say the name it’s given is less signficant than what it actually turns out to be (if anything).
On Friday RIA Novosti quoted Prikhodko by name, on the eve of the Vietnam trip, saying:
“I don’t think we need to reestablish (in its old form) a base at Cam Ranh.”
And he claimed there was nothing concerning Cam Ranh in the documents prepared for the visit.
Today ITAR-TASS coyly cited a Presidential Administration source (using Prikhodko’s exact words) who said Moscow is not tabling the issue of fully reestablishing a naval base at Cam Ranh:
“Russia has material-technical support points for its Navy in many countries, you undoubtedly know them – from the Maldives on an occasional basis to Syria. Naturally, the Vietnamese are interested in maximum capitalization on what was done by them and us. But I don’t think we need to raise the issue of reestablishing the base.”
“It’s logical that in the framework of regular Russian Navy exercises, particularly in recent times, given our increased cooperation with European Union and NATO on antipiracy problems, this is an acute issue. There’s nothing supernatural here. And the fact is, in order for our ships to resupply with food and replenish in an efficient manner, they need infrastructure capabilities.”
“The idea of the base belongs to the Vietnamese side, it involves using the good groundwork and experience which Vietnam and Russia had earlier in supporting the security of navigation, supplying ships with food, with refueling. It’s likely we’re talking about the possibilities of material-technical support of Russian ship cruises.”
“This is not the central subject (in the high-level talks), we have no enemies in this region as in past times, but to have the possibility to visit ports on regular and standard conditions wouldn’t be bad.”
“I don’t know the military’s plans in relation to this base and suppose that they don’t have any. We’re talking about supporting the reliable functioning of our ships, including those fulfilling functions of various types of our cooperation with international organizations.”
Comparing the possibility of Cam Ranh with the existing situation with Syria, he said:
“This [Cam Ranh] is even better than the Syrian variant. When it comes to Syria, we are always looking around at the reaction of neighbors, Israel, for example. Here [Cam Ranh] it’s a much softer and more transparent variant.”
“There are complexities connected with ships passing the Strait of Malacca. Therefore, on the level of public announcements, all countries in the region are interested that we should send military vessels there.”
It all seems like an awful lot of talk for something that ain’t goin’ happen . . .