This weekend, Philippines will host this years summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This year’s location of the summit, Manila, is emblematic of the changing alliances currently fomenting in Asia.
Although Philippines has been independent of direct American rule since 1946, in many ways, it has only been since the 2016 election of President Rodrigo Duterte that the country has begun exercising an independent foreign policy which has seen Manila engaging in historically positive relations with both China and Russia, while developing policies which seek to challenge US hegemony over Philippines.
In this sense, Sergey Lavrov will find that he has a great deal more in common with many members of ASEAN than Rex Tillerson, this is particularly true in respect of the host country.
Sputnik reports that a source inside Russia’s Foreign Ministry has indicated that during the discussions, Tillerson and Lavrov will speak about Syria on the sidelines of the summit. This will be the first such meeting since the US Congress overwhelmingly voted in favour of sanctioning Russia, against the wishes of virtually every country in the world, including America’s EU allies, especially Germany.
Ever since it became clear that sanctions would pass in the US Congress, the biggest danger in respect of deteriorating Russia-US relations was that the ceasefire in south western Syria which is being jointly policed by the Russian Federation, United States of America and The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, could be in jeopardy.
Russia responded by staying that in spite of the sanctions and in spite of the failure of the US to resolve the crisis of seized diplomatic property belonging to Russia in the US, cooperation in south western Syria as well as in respect of the International Space Station will continue.
In spite of these statements, there is no question that the deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow have put a strain of the single most important cooperative measure agreed upon between Presidents Putin and Trump at the recent G20 summit in Hamburg.
In this sense, the forthcoming ASEAN summit will be an important test of just how durable the agreement over south western Syria really is.