Russia and Philippines plan ‘war games’ as two of Putin’s ships make a rare stop in Manila

AFP and Dave Burke for Mail Online — Jan 3, 2017

time magazine duterteThe Russian Navy is set to hold ‘war games’ with the Philippines, after controversial President Rodrigo Duterte said he would be downgrading his country’s military alignment with the United States.

The country has formerly held dozens of exercises each year alongside the US military, but these have been put on hold by Duterte, who took office in June.

The war games with Russia will focus on tackling maritime piracy and terrorism, said Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, the deputy commander of the Russian Navy’s Pacific fleet.

He made the comments as two Russian ships made a rare stop in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

It is just the third time Russian military vessels have visited the country, which has traditionally been closely aligned to the US.

US President Barack Obama has been heavily critical of Duterte over his brutal war on drugs, which has claimed more than 6,000 lives in the last six months and prompted allegations of extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has made repeated threats to downgrade or even end military and diplomatic ties with Washington.

He has also said he wants all American troops to leave the Philippines, and in October told Obama to ‘go to hell’.

admiral-tributs

Russian Destroyer Admiral Tributs. Click to enlarge

Mikhailov told reporters as he stood beside the docked Russian destroyer Admiral Tributs: ‘We’re very sure that in the future we’ll get such exercises with you, maybe just the manoeuvreing or maybe use some combat systems and so on.’

Mikhailov also raised the prospect of joint exercises with China and Malaysia in the South China Sea, where competing territorial claims have been a major source of tension and potential conflict for decades.

‘We really hope that in a few years, the military exercises for example in your region, in the South China Sea, will (involve) for example, not only Russia-Philippines, but Russia, Philippines, China and maybe Malaysia together.’

The visit was only the third ever by Russian military vessels to the Philippines, according to the Filipino Navy’s Commodore Francisco Cabudao, who led the welcoming ceremony for the Russian ships.

The Philippines, a former American colony, had for decades been one of the United States’ most important and loyal allies in Asia. The two are bound by a mutual defence pact.

But Duterte, a self-described socialist, has during his six months in power sought to dramatically shift his nation’s foreign and military alliances towards China and Russia.

During a trip to Beijing in October last year, Duterte enthused about his plans to forge closer ties with Russia and China.

‘America has lost. I’ve realigned myself in your (Chinese) 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, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,’ he said.

Philippine officials have said Duterte is expected to visit Russia in April or May.

Duterte has said he is open to the Philippine military holding joint exercises with Russia and China.

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