Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has delivered on his promise to build closer ties with Russia. This could be the beginning of an ever more important relationship.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, a man the West tends to mock or underestimate, has just delivered on yet another of his promises: further cooperation and extended relations with Russia.
Two Russian ships, the anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs and the sea tanker Boris Butoma, have sailed into Manila harbour on a goodwill visit.
The move is a sign of extended friendship between the two countries and could well be the beginning of ever closer relations.
Just how far Philippines drifts from its erstwhile fixed position in the US orbit remains to be seen, but those who dismiss Duterte do so at their own peril.
As for the US, it still acts in an outwardly oblivious way to the fact that the Philippines is drifting further away from the West, and closer to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members China and Russia.
Russian Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov said of the visit,
“In the future maybe we can have military exercises so we can help you and share with you our knowledge to deal or solve the problem with piracy and terrorism”.
The clear indication here is that the door to future cooperation with Russia is open.
It is clear that Russia acknowledges the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism in Philippines. Recently Duterte responded to this threat by stating that should ISIS make inroads amongst the more radical Islamists already in the country, he would eat them alive. Using colourful language, he even spoke of how he would do it!
These threats should be taken seriously if not literally.
Duterte is a man who does not back down from hard-line measures against real problems, whether those be the drug problem, which has devastated the country, or US economic bullying. or Islamic terrorism.
Political loyalties in East Asia are changing rapidly. The Philippines leads the way, and Russia may well move more permanently into this new reality.