According to this article, estimates of the total cost of the Soviet Union's support to the North Vietnam government range from $3.6 billion to $8 billion.

China too lent its support

The Chinese government, under the administration of Mao Zedong, took an active role in the First Indochina War. In April 1950, Viet Minh formally requested military aid including equipment, advisors, and training for the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). The PRC began to send their advisors and later form the Chinese Military Advisory Group (CMAG) to assist the North Vietnamese forces in return, led by General Wei Guoqing, along with Senior General Chen Geng. This is the beginning of China’s assistance.

Seeing as how the Cold War was more of a clash of Ideology between two world powers, arms deals made or military support given would not have had the primary objective of profit or commercial gain. After the Vietnam war, aside from an ideological and military victory over the west; did the Soviets and China (for their support during the IndoChina war as well) expect anything in return monetarily?

  • Imagine if Poland had been expected to pick up the allies' tab after WW2. May 20, 2019 at 17:54
  • services aside, that just leaves the equipment sent over by the soviets. free of charge too?
    – mr.eaver
    May 20, 2019 at 18:28
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    After Vietnam war, China and Vietnam had their own war. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Vietnamese_War
    – Santiago
    May 20, 2019 at 18:31
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    @DenisdeBernardy There is some difference between "paying for the equipment your allies used for their own armed forces" and "paying for the equipment that your allies provided to your armed forces". The later is not that unusual.
    – SJuan76
    May 21, 2019 at 15:39

3 Answers 3


Not sure about what the Russians thought during the war, but afterwards, they apparently agreed to write their debt off: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/opinion/russians-vietnam-war.html "Brezhnev agreed to cancel all of Hanoi’s debts."

I think this is quite different from the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, which was also during the cold war and in which the Iraqi side bought lots of equipment from socialist countries - with the emphasis on 'bought'.

P.S. I think both the Chinese and the Russians probably had qualified economists who would be able to tell them that a repayment of the money spent for the war was .. unlikely. That does not mean that the question of wartime debt could not be used for political purposes - e.g. to pull the Vietnamese closer to the Soviet side by forgiving their debt.

  • 1
    Iran / Iraq war....... was paid for by oil.... the difference is.. they COULD pay.. so they paid. Vietnam (north and south).. .North Korea.. South korea no one had to pay anything, because... it was other countries playing the game of thrones on their land.. If anything they should have charged the great powers for using the venue. May 23, 2019 at 20:40

Turns out monetizing military conquest is surprisingly difficult.

Napoleon tried to get Spain to pay for its own occupation. That policy led to a series of uprisings that ultimately contributed to the downfall of Napoleon. (it tied up hundreds of thousands of french troops that could have been better employed else where)

The USSR also never quite figured out how to monetize its many military conquests.

But what is harder is, the monetization of military alliances!

The Soviets tried to collect some respect for helping the Chinese Communist during their revolution, didn't work out too well.

China's attempt to get Vietnam acknowledge China as the elder brother in the commune (which is a lot less than asking for a monetary contribution to services rendered) also did not wok out.

But turns out that's not just a problem limited to communists, or dictatorships.

The US also never found a way to get any of the allies to pay even a fraction of their fair share for collective defense.

So yeah good luck trying to collect.

I think the main reason is every party in these relationships know that the alliance or communal brotherhood isn't really true. It is really a big brother-junior brother, master-servant, lord-vassal type of relationship. And given that unspoken understanding, who would willingly pay.

And if the senior / bigger party tries to make an explicit demand as in the case of Napoleon, USSR and China, the result is revolt and conflict.

And this is also why War is rarely profitable (contrary to popular believe. Napoleon famously said the war will pay for (feed?) the war. And we all know how that turned out.) And in the US, every war resulted in a new series of taxes and monetary easing...

War is almost never profitable. (with some rare exceptions that feed the hopes of would be conquerors )

  • 3
    This reads more like a rant than an actual response, has several mistakes and it only makes a passing reference to the actual question being asked.
    – SJuan76
    May 21, 2019 at 15:31
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    The question is whether China/Russia asked to be paid. You don't answer that. There are many cases in history where countries provided military aid with no expectation/demand that it be repaid. Is this one? That's the question...
    – user15620
    May 21, 2019 at 23:54
  • @Steven Burnap: ahh but i did address exactly that! I said. .China demanded a bit of respect, fancying themselves as the big brother in the relationship, where Vietnam would defer to China on matter of diplomacy and matter of state they hadn't even gotten around to asking for cash... And Vietnam response was a definitive "LOL NO!" and then it resulted in a punitive war, where china learned a lesson in 9months that took america 10,000 days to learn.... never mess with the vietnamese in vietnam. May 22, 2019 at 15:40

After the Vietnamese victory East Germany demanded repayment for its “brotherly support” of Vietnam, whereupon the latter sent a large number of South-Vietnamese convicts to work as slaves in East-German factories. They and their children have a very obvious presence in Berlin and other big cities of the former East.

  • I have this information from conversations with Vietnamese people in Berlin.
    – fdb
    May 23, 2019 at 12:55
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    I believe most statements in your post are mistaken. In order of appearence 1. "repayment": The transfer of Vietnamese workers to East Germany was in return for East German goods (such as machinery) and was not related to the war. 2. "South-Vietnamese": Vietnamese in East Germany are mainly from Northern Vietnam. This is in contrast to Vietnamese in West Germany and even in West Berlin. 3. "convicts": Vietnamese workers in East Germany were mainly from the more loyal quarters of socialist Vietnam's society (correlates with point 2)
    – Jan
    May 23, 2019 at 20:04
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    4. "work as slaves": jobs in East Germany were actually in high demand and the number of applications was much higher than the number of positions. Wages for Vietnamese and East Germans were about equal. Returning to Vietnam would have been easy. Sources:bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/kurzdossiers/256400/… bpb.de/apuz/28970/…
    – Jan
    May 23, 2019 at 20:15
  • @Jan. Thank you for this clarification. It is very likely that you are right.
    – fdb
    May 23, 2019 at 20:20

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