No military alliance between the Philippines and Russia will occur despite the latest development in a shift in foreign policy away from Moscow’s rival, the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
Speaking to Russian television network RT News on Wednesday night (Manila time), he stressed the Philippine government only wanted to forge defense cooperation pacts with Moscow as “we have a treaty signed in the 1950s,” referring to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the United States and the Philippines. “Fundamentally, the foreign policy of the Philippines follows the foreign policy of the United States,” he noted.
Duterte, however, said he is “ready to cooperate with my new friends – China and Russia – to make this world more peaceful.”
“We have to do business and have diplomatic relations with everybody. If there is good to it, then I thank God,” he added.
The Chief Executive also insisted that his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is a way of showing other nations that his administration is ready to be a reliable friend and partner of the international community, not just Washington.
“I just want to be friends, to show to the world that I am not limited to a few. That I have to interact with the rest of the world, because we are a sovereign state. And we have to do business and to have diplomatic relations with everybody,” Duterte said.
Duterte had earlier announced a “separation” from the United States and has called for its withdrawal of American troops in the country, putting into question Manila’s 70-year-old alliance with Washington.
He, however, softened his stance shortly afterwards.
Don’t pick a fight with US
Duterte also revealed that the country’s military top brass wanted him to distance himself from picking a fight with Washington, especially with the unpredictable tendencies manifested by US President-elect Donald Trump.
“I’m not at liberty to make it public, but there are feelings now, even retired generals telling me to change my attitude in dealing with Trump,” he said.
“They wrote me a long letter, and the last sentence is that, ‘there is no doubt in our minds that we can be great friends again and reset the whole thing,’” he added without elaborating further his reaction.
Duterte, however, welcomed Trump’s election win, saying there were a lot of similarities between him and the new leader.
He also said he does not “want to pick a fight” with Trump.
The tough-talking Filipino leader also reiterated the reason he keeps on hitting Washington.
“You know, every time, and even before – every time the United States criticizes us or reprimands us they always connect it with the ... sentence: ‘If you do not do this, if you do not do that, if you do this and we do not like that we, will cut the assistance,’” Duterte said.
“I don’t like to be ordered,” he stressed.
Russia wants fresh start
with US under Trump – Lavrov
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday called for a fresh start in relations with the US under Trump and fired a parting shot at outgoing President Barack Obama.
“We are confident that the new administration does not want to repeat the errors of the outgoing one, which deliberately destroyed US-Russian relations,” Lavrov was quoted as saying in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
Trump’s election victory and the positive noises he has made toward Moscow have been greeted with trepidation in Ukraine and former communist states that are now part of the US-led NATO alliance.
During the campaign, Trump praised Putin and said he would seek to improve relations with Moscow while casting doubt on Washington’s commitments to its NATO allies.
Lavrov told Corriere: “Naturally we positively welcomed the willingness for cooperation between our two countries shown by Trump during the election campaign.
“On our part we are always available for an honest, pragmatic dialog with Washington on all bilateral and global questions...”
He added: “We hope that the new president’s fledgling foreign policy team will take concrete steps in this direction and that the cooperation will be constructive.”
Lavrov defended Russia’s build-up of forces in areas close to ex-Soviet NATO states as a response to the Western allies “political-military pressure on our country” which had obliged Moscow to “take appropriate measures for our defense and national security.”
Lavrov was in Rome to attend a conference on Mediterranean security issues, during which he was due to meet with his US counterpart, John Kerry. With AFP