Once an enemy of the U.S., Vietnam is growing as a country and has become a key ally “as a counter to China’s rising power”:

“Nothing better illustrates the Vietnamese desire to be a major player in the region than the country’s recent purchase of six state-of-the-art Kilo-class submarines from Russia. A Western defense expert in Hanoi tells me that the sale makes no logical sense: ‘There is going to be real sticker shock for the Vietnamese when they find out just how much it costs merely to maintain these subs.’ More important, the expert says, the Vietnamese will have to train crews to use them—a generational undertaking. ‘To counter Chinese subs,’ the expert says, ‘they would have been better off concentrating on anti-submarine warfare and littoral defense.’ Clearly, the Vietnamese bought these submarines as prestige items, to say We’re serious.”