The president of the Philippines invited traditional U.S. rival Russia to become the country’s ally and protector.
President Rodrigo Duterte toured a Russian warship Friday docked in Manila. The anti-submarine warship Admiral Tributs and the tanker Boris Butoma were dispatched to the Philippines for an unprecedented visit.
During the tour, Duterte spoke highly of the budding relationship between Russia and the Philippines.
“We welcome our Russian friends. Anytime you want to dock here for anything, for play, for replenish supplies, or maybe our ally to protect us,” Duterte told Rear Adm. Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
“I hope you can come back more often,” the president added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reportedly praised the “start of a partnership” when he met with Russian navy officials Thursday night.
The Philippines is officially a U.S. ally, but the alliance has been thrown into disarray since Duterte took power last Summer.
Infuriated by the Obama administration’s repeated criticisms, Duterte has adopted a strong anti-American stance. He has indicated numerous times that he prefers China and Russia to the U.S.
He is determined to pursue an “independent foreign policy” different, in many ways, from that of the U.S.
Duterte announced his “separation from America” in October 2016.
“I’ve realigned myself to your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, the Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way,” Duterte said in China.
“If China and Russia would decide to create a new order, I will be the first to join,” the president announced one month later.
Duterte has sworn at President Barack Obama, calling him a “son of a whore” and telling him to “go to hell.” He has also promised to cancel joint military exercises with the U.S., kick American troops out of the Philippines, tear up existing defense agreements, and purchase weapons from other arms distributors – specifically Russia and China.
Although Duterte has walked back some of his statements; his position has put a strain on the alliance.
Russia is keen on engaging in joint drills with the Philippines. Duterte, who regards President Vladimir Putin as a personal hero, revealed Thursday that he is open to the possibility of conducting joint military drills with Russia.
“This relationship is potentially very significant given that fact that the Philippines was for a very long time the anchor of the U.S. military presence in the region,” Alexey Muraviev, a Russia defense specialist at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, told Bloomberg.
Increased Russian presence in the Philippines could further erode U.S.-Philippine ties, a relationship that was actually quite strong before Duterte became president.
Duterte sent foreign and defense ministers to Russia last month to discuss arms deals. He is expected to visit Moscow personally this coming April.
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