Putin offers Duterte arms and close friendship
Russia is ready to become a "new reliable partner" of the Philippines to supply the traditional US ally with sophisticated weapons, Russia's ambassador said on Wednesday.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has thrown the future of Philippine-US relations into question with angry outbursts against the former colonial power and some scaling back of military ties while taking steps to boost ties with China and Russia.
Illustrating the transformation of Philippine foreign relations since Duterte took office in June, two Russian warships are on four-day visit to Manila this week, the first official navy-to-navy contact between the two countries.
Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev took the opportunity to hold a news conference on board the anti-submarine vessel Admiral Tributs. He said he understood that the Philippines was intent on diversifying its foreign partners.
"It's not a choice between these partners and those ones. Diversification means preserving and keeping old traditional partners and getting new ones," he said.
"We don't interfere with your relations with your traditional partners, and your traditional partners should respect the interest of the Philippines and Russia."
The Russian navy visit comes less than a month after Duterte sent his foreign and defence ministers to Moscow to discuss arms deals after a US senator said he would block the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines, due to concern about a rising death toll in a "war on drugs" launched by Duterte.
Khovaev said Russia had a range of weapons to offer.
"We are ready to supply small arms and light weapons, some aeroplanes, helicopters, submarines and many, many other weapons. Sophisticated weapons. Not the second-hand ones," Khovaev said.
He said it was too early to talk about the scope of military cooperation but, in a clear reference to the United States, said old allies should not worry.