Yesterday, when Philippine president Duterte finally took the plunge to announce his "separation" from the US (even if his government has backtracked somewhat today), he said that not only would he "realign" himself in China's ideological flow but, in a nuance that was missed by many, said that "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, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way."
To be sure, an offical axis between China, Russia and a nation that until recently was a core US ally in the Pacific Rim - whose loss would be a huge slap in the face of Obama and whoever replaced him as president - would be music to Putin's ears, which is why just minutes after Philippine president announced his stunning separation from the US, Russia’s ambassador to the country promptly said Moscow is ready to provide assistance to and fully cooperate with Manila.
"Formulate your wish list. What kind of assistance do you expect from Russia and we will be ready to sit down with you and discuss what can and should be done,” Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev told GMA News on Friday. He then went on to state that Russia is open to working with the Philippines in “any area, any field of possible cooperation.”
The ambassador assured the news outlet that Moscow would not “interfere with the domestic affairs of a sovereign state,” and that the “true Russia” is much different than the one portrayed in Hollywood films. Khovaev added that the Philippines and Russia “deserve to know each other much, much better.”
The aggresive, if diplomatic brownnosing continued, when the ambassador also said that Duterte impressed Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting in Laos last month, and that Moscow supports the leader’s fight against illegal drugs and criminality. In short, he said everything that Durterte wanted to hear just to make sure the Chinese-Russian-Philippino axis takes hold.
For its part, the Philippines’ budget minister announced that his country is open to all forms of assistance, but will choose what is in the “best interest of the country,” Reuters reported. This could also include yet another U-turn, and prompt return to the safety of being a US puppet. Which is why on Friday, the Philippines’ trade minister, Ramon Lopez, told CNN that the leader “wasn’t talking about separation” from the United States. Although Duterte explicitly stated that the Philippines would be separating from the US economically, Lopez said that “in terms of economic [ties], we are not stopping trade, investment with America. The president specifically mentioned his desire to strengthen further the ties with China and the ASEAN region, which we have been trading with for centuries.”
He explained that the Philippines was just “breaking being too much dependent on one side…but we definitely won’t stop the trade and investment activities with the West, specifically the US.”
The US embassy in the Philippines called Duterte’s remarks “troubling rhetoric” prior to Lopez’s conciliating remarks. “We’ve seen a lot of this sort of troubling rhetoric recently, which is inexplicably at odds with the warm relationship that exists between the Filipino and American people and the record of important cooperation between our two governments,” the US embassy press attaché in Manila, Molly Koscina, told Reuters on Friday.
“We have yet to hear from the Philippine government what Duterte’s remarks on ‘separation’ might mean, but it is creating unnecessary uncertainty,” she added.
If Russia is successful in closing the loop on the latest, and most novel regional power axis yet, Koscina will be waiting for a long time.