Vietnam just hosted an event at the Hanoi Airbase that attracted 174 exhibitors from 30 countries who are looking to create partnerships with the country and become its top weapons distributor.

US Ambassador Marc Knapper told the media that the fair “represents a new stage in Vietnam’s efforts to globalize, diversify and modernize, and the United States want to be part of it.”

The US and Russia compete to become the main weapons supplier for Vietnam, the strategic Southeast Asian country that borders China. This competition has intensified recently as both countries attempt to gain a foothold in the region and capitalize on the growing demand for advanced weaponry.

This arms race is rooted in geopolitical considerations: both the US and Russia seek to increase their influence in Asia by supplying Vietnam with military hardware. For example, the US, which has long had a strong presence in East Asia, views Vietnam as an important ally against Chinese expansionism, while Russia is keen to counterbalance Washington’s hegemony by establishing closer ties with Hanoi and providing it with modern arms.

US Weapons
(Source: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command/Flickr)

The United States has long been traditionally associated with advanced weaponry. However, competition from the other participating nations at this arms fair means the US faces stiff competition. US Advantage International reported that there has been an increasing number of countries entering the defense market in recent years, along with companies from emerging markets strengthening their positions within the market. This has resulted in more nations striving for equal opportunities to win defense contracts with foreign governments, including Vietnam.

Given this increase in competition, how exactly is the US competing with other weapons suppliers to become Vietnam’s main weapons source?

One key strategy adopted by the US is providing specialized training and technical support. According to a study conducted by the Fletcher School at Tufts University entitled “Revitalizing Debate on The Global Arms Trade,” this allows the US to form closer ties with other governments as well as build trust between them by demonstrating their expertise on particular types of weapon systems used by those governments. In addition to providing training and technical support, many US arms sales also include non-military-related assistance as part of a “package deal,” which can often be beneficial for developing countries looking for help with economic development.

Military Equipment
(Source: NARA)

Another strategy employed by the US involves leveraging its relationships with allies such as Japan and South Korea, who are members of its regional alliances. By doing so, it allows the US access to larger markets to which its competitors may not have had access before due to security concerns or political uncertainty surrounding certain regions or countries, thereby allowing them more opportunities when bidding for defense contracts within those regions or countries.

In recent years, Washington has sought to deepen its defense partnership with Hanoi through initiatives such as the Foreign Military Financing program (FMF), which allows for direct sales of military equipment from the US and co-development projects of joint weapon systems between American companies and Vietnamese entities.