On Wednesday, the Russian ambassador, Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev announced that Russia is prepared to provide the Philippines with state-of-the-art weapons. Russia hopes to build closer ties with the Philippines similar to its traditional ally, the US.

Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev
Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev

Furthermore, Russia can readily supply the Philippines with advanced weaponry, like aircraft and submarines.

Khovaev held a news conference inside Admiral Tributs, a Russian anti-submarine vessel.

On the other hand, several people criticized the announcement. They questioned Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s move which seemed to cast away the Philippine-US relationship. Moreover, they accused Duterte of tipping military connections to improve ties with China and Russia.

Since Duterte assumed office in June, the changes in foreign relations became apparent. An obvious example is the goodwill visit of the two Russian warships. The warships will be in Manila for four days and it is the first ever formal navy-to-navy interaction between Russia and Philippines.

Also, Khovaev claimed that he recognized Philippines effort in expanding its choice of foreign partners.

The Russian Ambassador said, “It’s not a choice between these partners and those ones. Diversification means preserving and keeping old traditional partners and getting new ones. So Russia is ready to become a new reliable partner and close friend of the Philippines.”

“We don’t interfere with your relations with your traditional partners and your traditional partners should respect the interest of the Philippines and Russia.” Khovaev pointed out.

Admiral Tributs

The Russian navy visit came after a month since Duterte dispatched the country’s foreign and defense ministers to Moscow. The ministers discussed the possibility of an arms deal with Russia after a US senator declared his intention to oppose the sale of 26,000 rifles to the Philippines. This American politician’s action concerns Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

Meanwhile, Khovaev said Russia had a variety of weapons to offer to the Philippines.

He said, “We are ready to supply small arms and light weapons, some aeroplanes, helicopters, submarines and many, many other weapons.”

The ambassador highlighted that Russia will offer “Sophisticated weapons. Not the second-hand ones. Russia has a lot to offer but everything will be done in full compliance with international law.”

Also, the ambassador claims that it was still too early to discuss military cooperation at this stage. Pertaining to the US, the Philippines traditional ally, Khovaev said they should not worry.

“Your traditional partners should not be concerned about the military ties … If they are concerned, it means they need to get rid of clichés,” Khovaev said.

On Tuesday, the head of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov said he wanted to help the Philippines. The Admiral wanted to organize maritime exercises with the Philippines to fight terrorism as well as piracy.

The US and the Philippines generally hold naval exercises yearly. However, Duterte reduced the number of these exercises and relocated the drills away from the South China Sea. This will further reassure China, which is apprehensive about the US military activities in the disputed territory.