In a sign of continuing closeness between Russia and the Philippines, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council has offered President Duterte access to Russian intelligence and tactical training for his security forces.
Rodrigo Duterte has stoked international controversy since assuming the presidency of the Philippines last summer by launching a violent police campaign focused on criminals and drug users in the country.
The campaign has been harshly criticized by the United Nations, prompting Duterte to advocate abandoning the U.N. in favor of starting a similar organization with China. He has also sought to broaden the Filipino military’s involvement in his campaign against drugs. It has been reported that his war on drugs has already cost more than 7,600 lives.
Duterte has frequently challenged the U.S., saying last year he wants to “reorient” foreign policy, and indicated a desire to more closely align with Russia and China to better serve his interests. Last fall he sought to expel U.S. Special Operations Forces from their ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom mission in the country’s south, citing security concerns.
The intelligence sharing proposed by Russia’s Defense Secretary is purportedly designed to combat transnational crime and terrorism.
Duterte has made concerted efforts to display an openness to China and Russia. Earlier this year, he toured Russian warships amid talks of joint Russia-Philippines naval exercises.
During that visit, he said he wanted Russia to become the Philippines’ ally and protector.
He plans to visit Moscow in April, where he will sign an agreement leading to joint training exercises and more military involvement with Russia. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has referred to this as a “defense cooperation agreement,” and has also indicated a desire to obtain Russian military equipment.
The Russians have also offered training for President Rodrigo’s personal protection detail.
The worsening of relations with the United States comes at a time of rising tensions in the South China Sea, where China has been constructing artificial islands to project influence over the area and its potential resources.
However, following the election of President Donald Trump, Duterte offered hearty congratulations to the incoming president, and “looks forward to working with the incoming administration for enhanced Philippines-U.S. relations anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law”.
Image courtesy of Reuters