Article by: S.Lavrov
This year, our countries celebrate a remarkable anniversary – 60 years since the establishment of their diplomatic relations.
It is symbolic that this commemorative date coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. The defeat of Nazism and, generally, the end of the Second World War gave a strong impetus to the decolonization process in Asia, including the national liberation struggle of the Lao people. As a result, as early as October 1945 Laos declared its independence, though it took several decades of intense struggle and political and diplomatic efforts to safeguard it. The Soviet Union actively participated in the 1954 Geneva Conference which put the end to the French aggression against peoples of Indochina, and was a guarantor of the Laos neutrality in the years that followed. No wonder that the Soviet leadership positively responded to the proposal of the Lao government which was formed in August 1960 to establish official relations.
From the very start, our bilateral ties began to acquire specific practical substance. Thus, one of the first steps in that context was the air bridge between Hanoi and Vientiane established by the Soviet Union to provide assistance to patriotic forces in Laos.
There is a saying in Russia: have no friend – find one, found a friend – treasure him/her. After the proclamation of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975 we were there to provide support to the young State. We supplied it with cars and trucks, fuel, food and consumer goods, with everything that was in deficit in the country devastated by many years of the civil war and foreign interference. As early as 1978, Russia helped to build in Vientiane a hospital and a health centre equipped with up-to-date facilities. Russian professionals shared with Lao colleagues their experience in the areas of agriculture, forestry, healthcare, education, etc., worked side-by-side with them to rebuild roads destroyed by the war, erect bridges and carry out geological prospecting work. Dozens of economic and social facilities were built, including a technical school to provide training in major technical skills and the Lao-Soviet Friendship Hospital, which still yield significant benefits to the Lao people seeking to bring their Motherland to the track of dynamic development and prosperity.
Today, Russian-Lao ties are characterized by their multidimensional nature. The parties continue to advance their political dialogue, including, first of all, at the highest level. Presidents of the two countries talked to each other during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II organized in Beijing in 2015. In addition, the President of the Russian Federation V.Putin met with the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic T.Sisoulith on the margins of the Russia-ASEAN summits in Sochi in May 2016 and in Singapore in November 2018. In September 2017, the head of the Lao government made an official visit to the Russian Federation. Contacts have also been maintained between parliaments, political parties, youth and public organizations, including friendship societies.
Our common undisputed priority is the promotion of trade and economic cooperation, implementation of major joint projects, including in the area of hydropower generation, creation of an enabling environment for unleashing the potential of cooperation between small and medium enterprises in areas such as exploration and extraction of mineral resources, polygraphy and pharmaceuticals. A significant role in promoting practical cooperation between the two countries has been played by the Russian-Lao Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. At its 15th meeting held in Moscow in July last year, the Commission defined key objectives in the implementation of existing agreements and charted plans for the future.
Special attention in the context of our bilateral relations has been paid to the education. We are proud that many Lao citizens who studied in Russia now hold senior positions in the government and other branches of power of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Among them are the Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and my counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith, Foreign Minister of the country. It is no wonder that Vientiane was the venue of the regional forum of graduates of Russian and Soviet universities attended by more than one hundred delegates from 15 countries which was held in November 2019. We hope that the baton will now pass to the younger generation, especially taking into account that the number of state-financed scholarships allocated by Russia to Lao students for the period of 2020‑2021 increased almost threefold (to 92) as compared to five years ago.
The Russian public highly appreciated a truly brotherly attitude of Lao people towards the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, a very significant event for Russia. We view that as an important contribution of Laos to the preservation of the historical truth and rejection of any attempts to falsify history.
Our States closely cooperate in the international arena. A key to their successful foreign policy coordination is the concurrence or similarity of positions on practically all major issues on the global and regional agenda. What brings us together is the commitment to the formation of a more equitable and democratic multipolar world order based on the principles of the UN Charter, and the respect for the right of peoples to their own indigenous development models. Russia looks forward to strengthening its dialogue with Laos as an active member of most of the regional structures, including the ASEAN Regional Forum on Security and the East-Asian Summit, with a view to promoting initiatives aimed at creating an architecture of equal and indivisible security in the Asia-Pacific Region, supporting sustained growth in all regional countries and ensuring an interrelated character of various integration processes taking place in Eurasia. Taking this opportunity I would like to congratulate the colleagues with their professional holiday, the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic service of Laos.
We also intensify our military exchanges. Last year, Laos hosted, for the first time, the LAROS-2019 joint military exercises. Since the year 2018, experts of the International Mine Action Center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have been carrying out humanitarian demining operations in the Bolikhamxai and Xiangkhouang provinces in order to clear the country's territory from unexploded ordnance, the heritage of US bombardments in 1964‑1973. The Russian public positively reacted to the delivery to our country of 30 T‑34 tanks in January 2019 which was a gift from the Lao government.
Our Lao friends can always count on us in time of need. In August 2018, an airplane chartered by the Russian Ministry of Disaster Management brought humanitarian assistance to Laos designated for people affected by a major flooding resulted from a dam burst in the Attapeu province. In May this year, Laos was provided with 1000 Russian-made test systems to address the spread of the COVID‑2019. And we intend to continue that way.
In 60 years, we managed not only to maintain but also to strengthen the traditions of friendship, solidarity and mutual support. Today we face new ambitious tasks in strengthening our cooperation in a comprehensive way and in bringing it to new frontiers. I am confident that working together we will be able to achieve significant progress in every area for the benefit of our countries and peoples and in the interests of peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region.