Moscow and Manila: Natural allies in the Pacific

Tired of being pushed around by the Americans, the Philippines is opening out to Russia in a major way.

After a century of living under American dominance – during which the Philippines has remained one of the poorest countries in East Asia – President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to go East. On September 13, making a policy U-turn, he ordered his defense secretary to seek military gear from Russia and China.

The strategy switch wasn’t entirely unexpected. Earlier this month, Duterte had attacked Barack Obama for questioning extrajudicial killings in Manila’s war against drugs, and called the U.S. President a “son of a b***h”. He has previously called the Pope a “son of a whore” and the U.S. ambassador a “gay son of a whore.”
Duterte’s resolve to pursue an independent foreign policy may be bolstered by the re-rise of Russian military power and the explosive growth of the Chinese military. In 2014 during the G20 summit in Australia, many Filipinos were impressed by the Russian show of force near their waters. A battle group of four Russian Navy ships, including the heavily armed destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov and the guided missile cruiser Varyag, had accompanied Vladimir Putin’s visit.
Two years earlier, the Philippines had got a glimpse of Russian military power when the Russian Navy, led by the anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, arrived in Manila for a three-day port visit.
Growing similarities
Jaime S. Bautista, former ambassador to Russia and professor of international law at the Philippine Christian University and Ateneo de Manila Law School, believes the Russian and Filipino leaders have a lot in common.
Putin, Bautista writes, is the tough leader who is able to hold immense Russia together and overcome the nation’s enormous challenges. “In our recent elections, Filipinos elected Duterte to the highest position in the country, seeing in him a macho, decisive, and a man of action who could impose law and order throughout our archipelago, and build an inclusive economy.”
He adds: “Based on my diplomatic experience I can appreciate that Russia, as a Pacific power with its own pivot to Asia, can influence events to preserve the peace and prosperity of our Pacific region.”
Diplomatic ties
Coincidentally, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and the Philippines. It was initiated by former President Ferdinand Marcos, who sensed that the United States would lose the Vietnam War and the Philippines therefore needed to establish ties with the victorious side led by Moscow.
India, a staunch Soviet ally, facilitated the first formal diplomatic contact, in New Delhi in 1975, which led to further meetings in Moscow, leading to the creation of formal ties between the Philippines and the USSR in 1976.
Way forward
Russia and the Philippines have been circling around an economic and security deal for years. The latest falling out between the Philippines and its former colonial power could just be the cue for Moscow to step in.
Filipinos appreciate that Russia is building its relations with Southeast Asia on an ideology-free basis. More specifically, Moscow is not taking sides in the South China Sea disputes. In the spat over the Spratley Islands, Russia has not backed China at the expense of the Philippines or vice-versa.

© Agence France-Presse/East News Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) chats with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane.

This is because of two reasons. One, Moscow and Beijing are not formal allies so the Chinese cannot expect much in the way of support from Russia in their territorial fights. Secondly, Russia has no self-interest in the South China Sea, other than trade and arms exports, so it won’t meddle in the affairs of those involved in these disputes.
Another key aspect of Russia’s foray into the ASEAN region is that it is not antagonistic in nature. Russia is applying pressure in the Pacific in order to offset Western pressure in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. But in the ASEAN region, Russia is more interested in commerce and influence rather than geopolitical maneuvers. So Moscow will not side with China against the others in South East Asia.

ASEAN Summit: Duterte chats with Chinese premier Li

Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos D. Sorreta, who was the Director of the Philippine Foreign Service Institute, agrees. “Both Russia and China want a stable Central and East Asia,” he wrote in a discussion paper titled Security Developments in the Asia Pacific: Philippine and Russian Perspectives. “They want their 4209 km border secure. China has replaced Germany as Russia’s largest trading partner. Russia is selling arms once again to China. China’s moneyed investors have been looking at Russia.

“We believe that all this would not necessarily translate to Russian support for China’s efforts to claim the South China Sea. China clearly wants to be the dominant power in the region, something that could jeopardize Russia’s efforts to engage the region and develop its Far East area.

“The Russian International Affairs Council believes that Russia should implement flexible geo-political maneuvering in its relations with China. This would necessitate a careful balancing at that requires Russia to maintain good relations with China while deepening ties with countries in the region that may have issues with China.
“I believe this is a good strategy and one that that the Philippines could support. It is a strategy that would require Russia not to take sides on who owns what, but would allow it to support actions that are based on the principles of international law and that reduce tensions.”
Growing the economic side
In 2015, total mutual trade turnover amounted to just $0.58 billion, a significant drop from $1.4 billion in the year earlier period. Unfortunately, commercial exchange between the two countries lacks diversification, as the supply of oil and petroleum products accounts for 88 percent of Russia’s export to the Philippines.
Igor Khovaev, the Russian ambassador to the Philippines, sees a lot of opportunities in the fields of transportation, energy, trade, investments and mining. Plus, Russian tourists spend two to three weeks in the Philippines with their families. He is also eyeing talks on possible bilateral labor relations, to invite more Filipinos to work in Russia.
Clinching factor
During his election campaign, Duterte had promised to relook the 2014 Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the U.S. Filipinos have come to perceive the treaty as discriminatory and imposed by a dominant – and former colonial – power. Having American bases and military personal scurrying around the country with impunity is not insults Filipino pride but the agreement places curbs on the country’s ability to act independently in the international and military domains.
Meanwhile, as the Philippines and the U.S. lurch towards a divorce, new suitor Russia is putting on the charm offensive. According to ambassador Khovaev, Moscow and Manila are ideal allies. “We have no disputes, no political contradictions or differences,” he says. “What’s needed now is develop cooperation in practical terms, to elaborate and implement specific concrete projects in different fields. It’s time for the Russians to discover the Philippines and vice versa. It’s time for the Filipinos to discover the Russians.”
Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst, with a special interest in defence and military history. He is on the advisory board of Modern Diplomacy, a Europe-based foreign affairs portal.

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8 thoughts on “Moscow and Manila: Natural allies in the Pacific”

    1. As The U.S. appear to be intentionally fomenting distrust with confrontational actions and military presence.
      Look at the U.S. relations and see their allies no longer Trust them and their enemies no longer fear them.
      My hypothesis is the monetary system reform is intentionally being implemented this harmful way with rising world poverty, the U.S. lost prestige and over-burdensome dollar dominance forcing members nations out of their complacency into making changes.
      This is not by accident, it is policy.

  1. The worldwide hegemony is founded on the fraudulent international monetary system, and that debt based system in being reset.
    I see the world stage in a slightly more nuanced geopolitical distinction than:
    “This is because of two reasons. One, Moscow and Beijing are not formal allies so the Chinese cannot expect much in the way of support from Russia in their territorial fights”…
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) accepted the RMB as the fifth reserve currency in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket
    I see foreign trade increasing the use of the RMB.
    Russia, China, and the Island nations in the South China Sea (BRICS and SCO too) collectively supporting the Silk Road Trade agreement where Russia and China military will be major protection for safe commerce as the U.S. masters will use the U.S. gunboat diplomacy in a threatening fashion as additional incentives to develop the multipolar monetary system consensus that lifts the influence of the RMB as a world reserve currency and the Silk Road Trade used for fueling world trade growth along with Russia/China alternative or complementary S.W.I.F.T. and debt rating mechanism (China International Payment System aka “CIPS”).
    – This is not an accident it is Policy –
    Wealth redistribution from WEST to EAST.
    Eurasia is a large part of the world, and it is planned (with development funds) to be the principal driver of “the global economy”.
    The money masters and elite globalists are Promoting the RMB & SDR, AIIB, Belt and Road regional trade and infrastructure network scheme.
    Even Duterte proclaimed the Philippines are open for business, signaling they are on board the Silk Road Trade development scheme.
    But the elite globalists appear to be intentionally scripting the U.S. into the dark force role vs China as the light force role in escalating world war.
    Eerily similar to what was done for world war 2 where the U.S. dollar became the dominate trade reserve currency…
    After seeing how prevalent the dark occult, Lucifer and deity worship is among the ruling elite, we must consider the possibility that ritual human sacrifice (war) is required to seal their deal.

    1. The global elites have made trillions on war. Its what they do and they do it very well. Not sure how much of a roadblock Mr Trump would be.

      1. About the same amount as “Dubya” Bush and “Nobama” hope and change was.
        Elections are part of the Hegelian Dialectic mass deception with both Republican & Democrat political parties are the two wings of the same bird of prey.
        – The U.S. Empire vs Americans –
        The U.S. dollar (USD) as the World Reserve Currency belongs to the member nations’ central banks (think IMF with 188 members) of the world and not to America.
        The new monetary consensus(post Washington Consensus) is being implemented where the U.S. “De-dollarization” is underway, where U.S. Allies Don’t Trust the White House, and U.S. Enemies Don’t Fear the White House.
        – Sorry Citizen, but you’re a Slave –
        The U.S. is a captured state and the ruling elite is a international cartel that can shut down the U.S.Dollar in international trade within a S.W.I.F.T. hour! And China-Russia-BRICS-EEU-SCO-AIIB et al have implemented a redundancy to the West’s IMF, SWIFT and Credit Rating Agencies that currently wield most of the control, should they collapse or become confrontational in the escalating world war.
        The ruling elite are hidden money masters, and they rule the worldwide hegemony from behind the scenes and are engaged in the redistribution of wealth from WEST to EAST with Asia as the next century for world economic growth.
        Catherine Austin Fitts was told, [ when she was Assistant Secretary of Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in the first Bush Administration ], the elite was withdrawing the wealth from America and would leave America in poverty and drug addiction as they ship the manufacturing industry overseas! She blogs at
        The market collapse, along with emergency bank closures and the halting of financial transactions worldwide will occur when the ruling elite decide to hit the kill switch and Trump, Clinton, Biden, Bernie Sanders, Obama, et al, will follow their political orders as loyal and obedient club members.
        Escalating world war may be part of the required ritual human sacrifice to seal the deal for the next century (70 years) of economic growth with the ancient monetary legacy (a debt-based monetary empire system)

  2. I LIKE Pres Duterte..He has Guts and is not an ass kisser or a phony..I hope he will be safe and I hope the Russians reach out 2 him in a big way… He swears cuz he is angry..I swear when IM angry..He cleans up THE Garbage quickly..

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