Russia and Philippines have concluded an agreement wherein the former will supply much needed modern military hardware to the East Asian country as well as cooperate on further defence and counter-terrorism measures as well as the war against drugs.
The wide ranging talks were described by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the following way,
“These (agreements) include a defence cooperation agreement, memorandums on cooperation in nuclear energy, trade, investment, industry, transport, culture, and arts, as well as an action program for cooperation in tourism and a plan of consultations between our foreign ministries”.
According to the Philippines Star, President Rodrigo Duterte asked President Vladimir Putin for a loan to purchase much needed modern weapons. This comes after Philippines ran into difficulty securing weapons from its traditional ally, its post colonial ruler, the United States.
Duterte had a notoriously poor relationship with Barack Obama whom Duterte called a ‘son of a whore’. He has a notably better relationship with Donald Trump, but this has not changed Duterte’s position from looking increasingly to China and Russia as foreign partners.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Minister Alan Cayetano said that,
“The response of the Russian Federation through President Putin was very, very generous. So they said, well, we have the framework in place through our agreements to cooperate.
They have showed us what is available to us. I’m not at liberty now to discuss that…but they are awaiting our proposals.
It’s nothing new for the Russian Federation to lend a helping hand to countries that are their friends”.
Alan Cayetano also said that the Philippines will ask Russia for protective body armour for its troops and other protective gear in addition to modern weapons.
While Philippines has battled an Islamist insurgency for decades in the south of the country. Manila reports that unlike previous insurgencies the current fight with ISIS is internationalised. In addition to radicalised citizens of Philippines, the fighters include those of Indonesian and Malaysian origin, including some who were unable to get to Syria and Iraq in order to wage Salafist war/jihad.
According to Philippines Solicitor General Jose Calida,
“Before it was just a local terrorist group. But now they have subscribed to the ideology of ISIS. They want to make Mindanao a part of the caliphate”.
He also said that the intention is for ISIS fighters to turn Mindanao province in the south of the country into a province of the ISIS caliphate ruled from Raqqa in ISIS occupied Syria.
Rodrigo Duterte has promised total war on ISIS, but has made it clear that the war can only be won with the modern military equipment that the country currently lacks. He has turned to Russia for assistance in this matter.
There is however a distinct possibility that the US under Trump may come to Philippines’ aid in the war against ISIS. If the war becomes more protracted, Russia may also send special military advisers, although it is still far to early for such a thing to be an immediate possibility. If this happens though, there is interestingly a higher likelihood that Trump will finally be able to realise his goal of working with Russia against ISIS in Philippines rather than in Syria. The US after all is much better equipped to fight in Philippines than in Syria as it has an historic presence in and around the country. By contrast, the vast majority of America’s wars in the Middle East have been total strategic and at times military failures.
It is of note that ISIS began their violent assault on Marawi City when Duterte was in Moscow. Many have commented that this could imply that ISIS are taking their orders from those in the west who seek to undermine Duterte’s foreign policy which seeks historic new positive relations with both China and Russia.
It is also of note that illegal narcotics are a major source of funding for groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Rodrigo Duterte has overseen the world’s most thorough war on drugs. Therefore Duterte’s struggle against drugs and ISIS terrorism are deeply related. It is the drugs which help to finance ISIS. Philippines is now at war with both.