(The Russian Navy anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributz, as photographed, docked in Manila for a four-day goodwill visit. Photo courtesy of CNN Philippines.)
One of the first major stories of the year is the four-day goodwill visit of the Russian Navy in Manila in an effort to expand contact and relations. This has culminated a long-standing effort of the Duterte administration to seek closer relations with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China amid worsening relations with the United States.
Highlights of the visit were the demonstration of Russian Marines of their capabilities and skills and the press briefing held by Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev in which he stated Russia’s intentions to aid the Philippines in its efforts to curb terrorism and maritime piracy. Russian Navy Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, who lead the delegation meanwhile expressed wishes that the Philippines could conduct joint military exercise and the Philippines is free to decide whether it can pursue cooperation with either Russia or the United States and that Russia will not interfere with our decisions.
What are we going to get from this?
I see an opening of wide opportunities. The Philippines will be able to project itself as an important player in the Pacific region, the Russians seeking closer relations with Asian countries such as China and Japan as it seeks to develop its Far East regions and as a result of tensions with the West.
The Philippines will be supplied with modern military equipment in considerably cheaper prices rather than relying on second-hand equipment from the United States. We can even arrange with the Russians to have those weapons produced locally, which requires of course intensive investment.
Third, this can be seen as a sign for all players in the South China Sea to pursue a path of peace. Russia has close economic, political, and military relations with China, maintained a naval base in Vietnam, has close relations with India and Indonesia, a key player in the North Korean nuclear talks, and seeks to sign a formal peace treaty with Japan 70 years after World War II.
This will create a win-win situation to the best interest of everyone in the region. Besides, Russia have said it should not cause the traditional allies of the Philippines a huge deal of concern, and what is being offered is not a formal alliance.
In light of these developments, we must say hello to our new partners and wish us the best of luck. Spasibo and salamat!