In April 2009, reports surfaced that Vietnam had agreed in principle to a deal with Russia for 6 of its diesel-electric Kilo/ Project 636 Class fast attack submarines. By December 2009, it was an inflection-point deal for a capability that Vietnam has never had before. By November 2013, the new submarines had begun to arrive.
Nor is that the only change in Vietnam’s military capabilities these days, courtesy of their long-standing relationship with Russia. There have been some outside deals for items like maritime surveillance floatplanes, and a Dutch deal will provide high-end frigates. For the most part, however, Vietnam’s new combat power in the air, at sea, and on land is coming from Russia. China’s displays of naval might are only part of the mosaic influencing Vietnam’s decisions in these matters.