HomeAsiaVietnamese reject Russia’s explanation of ‘tactical withdrawal plan’ in Ukraine

Vietnamese reject Russia’s explanation of ‘tactical withdrawal plan’ in Ukraine

Many Vietnamese welcomed the news that Russian troops withdrew from northeastern Ukraine during the weekend after a hasty advance by Ukrainian forces in the six-month conflict.

Russian forces retreated from Izium in Kharkiv province on Saturday, abandoning their main bastion along with tanks and other military equipment as they fled northeastern Ukraine ahead of a quick advance by Ukrainian soldiers. Russian troops have used Izium as a logistics base for their attacks on the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region. 

Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged the troop pullback from Izium and nearby Balakleya in what was called a “tactical withdrawal plan,” though Vietnamese netizens and other commentators dismissed the explanation and suggested that Russian troops were running away.

“Russian troops ran [away] so fast that Ukraine could not catch up with them,” said Facebooker Bac Si Hieu. “It’s regrettable that Russian soldiers could not bring home all the washing machines and fridges that they had ‘exploited.’”

Though Vietnam considers Russia an ally, the government of the one-party communist state has supported neither Russia nor Ukraine and has refrained from calling the conflict an “invasion” by troops at the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Vietnamese government also abstained from a United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s military assault on the Eastern European nation, issued a formal call for restraint from both sides, and voted against removing Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Another Facebooker, Nguyen Trieu Vy, wrote: “Grand Uncle Tin [Putin]’s soldiers have run away from Kherson and Donbas successfully, strictly following the plan of the Special Military Operation.”

And Facebooker Oanh Vy Ly said: “Russian troops are running and are out of breath. Many netizens offered to give them the championship title at the open tournament of ‘Marathon of Withdrawal’ covering over 8,000 km. The Russian army really deserves it.”

On his Facebook profile with over 27,000 followers, writer Nguyen Thong posted the following: “The Russian fascists don’t easily accept defeat (or failure in other words), but the reality is that the battlefield is the deciding factor. And the reality is they are losing and may lose [the war] faster than many people think. Decent people are hoping Ukraine will win [the war] faster so that they can liberate their country from the brutal invaders.”

Nguyen Thong also noted that Maj. General Le Van Cuong from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security and Col. Le The Mau from the Ministry of National Defense felt bitter and upset about Russia’s defeat. “However, history is a waterfall which flushes away all rubbish,” he said. 

Commenting on the latest developments in the Ukraine-Russia war, former People’s Army of Vietnam intelligence officer Vu Minh Tri told RFA: “Ukraine having won many battles in recent days is easily understandable as they possess two key factors which are: Strong fighting spirit, clever mind, and creativity; as well as state-of-the-art weapons.”

“On the contrary, the Russians have increasingly been showing that they are motley troops and politically tired. They are also equipped with less advanced or even backward weapons.”

According to the former military officer, Ukraine’s excellent intelligence work has also contributed to its victory. 

He said that Ukraine had been successful in using its technical capacity to collect intelligence information about their invader, resulting in successfully attacking Russia’s key military targets, including its command posts, arsenals, docks, bridges, and equipment. 

Armored fighting vehicles abandoned by Russian soldiers are seen during a counteroffensive operation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released Sept. 11, 2022. Credit: Press service of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine via Reuters

‘Flight was quite surprising’

Facebooker Duong Quoc Chinh, who has more than 59,000 followers, told RFA that he had anticipated Russia’s defeat but was surprised by the quick developments in the battlefield and Russian troops pulling out of northeastern Ukraine. 

“In general, Russia’s flight was quite surprising, quite similar to that of the Republic of Vietnam [the former South Vietnam during the Vietnam War], therefore leaving many questions,” he said. “Of course, I have anticipated this failure as Russia would lose [the war] sooner or later. However, I could not imagine they could withdraw that quickly.”

Chinh attributed the Russian army’s failure to poor morale and the mandatory conscription of some soldiers, pointing to these factors as reasons the military could not be strong, even though it is equipped with modern weapons.

He also asked whether Moscow would use its nuclear weapons against the Ukrainians: “Does Ukraine dare to attack Crimea? And if Crimea is attacked by Ukraine, will Russia use its nuclear weapons, because for the Russians, attacking Crimea is attacking Russia?”

Do The Dang, a social activist from Hanoi, also pondered whether Russia’s army would undertake action arbitrarily without anticipating any consequences. 

“In general, Russia is losing,” he said. “The evidence goes beyond its withdrawal from or failing to advance on the battlefield – Russia has used guided missiles to attack civilian facilities. Their fire at civilian facilities was likely to have been caused by the confusing of intelligence information during this tense period, leading to arbitrary actions without considering consequences.”

Recalling the “bamboo diplomacy” policy of Vietnam, blogger Nguyen Thong wrote: “Those who only can express their concerns with bamboo [diplomatic] policy are so pitiable. I wonder whether they are composing letters to congratulate Ukraine on its victory or they will keep requesting that both sides exercise their constraints and sit down together for negotiation.”  

The term “bamboo diplomacy” was used during the Ho Chi Minh era (1945-1969) to describe Vietnam’s policy of proactively working with foreign partners while maintaining a friendly stance and adapting to geopolitical challenges. 

Thong said that on the day Ukraine claimed victory, the whole world would point to Vietnam as one of a few countries that had not dared to speak up against Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. 

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters put out a fire after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric  power station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sept. 11, 2022. Credit: Associated Press
Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters put out a fire after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric power station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sept. 11, 2022. Credit: Associated Press

‘Their morale is plummeting’

From the coastal resort city of Nha Trang, journalist Vo Van Tao told RFA that he was pleased to hear about Ukraine’s gains, but noted that the invasion isn’t over. 

“If the invading army fails, all peace-lovers will be very happy. Many online comments by Vietnamese people seem to be very optimistic, saying that the war will end in early October; i.e., before winter comes. However, I think this assessment is too optimistic.”

“Russian forces should not be underestimated, even though their morale is plummeting, and we should not forget that Ukraine was receiving a lot of financial and military support from the U.S. and other Western countries,” Trang said.

But support could be reduced if Western countries fail to deal with Moscow’s threat to cut off natural gas deliveries ahead of the coming winter, he added. 

Political commentator Duong Quoc Chinh said the best ending for both Ukraine and Russia would be the overthrow of Putin by the Russian people and a bilateral peace treaty. 

Others took to social media to reject assertions that Russia is losing the war. 

“The news about Ukraine’s successful counterattack is 100% fake news,” Colonel Le The Mau, a military strategist and former head of the Science and Technology Information Department at Vietnam’s Defense Strategy Institute, wrote on his Facebook account in response to a reader’s question about Ukraine’s gains on the Kherson, Khakiv and Izium fronts. 

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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