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Whether there will be Russia has a new ally in Southeast Asia?
Material posted: Publication date: 03-08-2017

29 July 2017, Deputy head of strategic planning Department of the General staff of the armed forces of the Republic of the Philippines Cornelio Valencia announced the intention of the military of this country to participate in international games Army ", army-2018". Of particular interest to Filipinos, according to him, cause such competitions as the "Tank biathlon" and "Sniper line". Valencia's statement, made on the sidelines of the "Armi-2017," shows that the cooperation of Russia and the Philippines in the military sphere is growing in intensity.

The fact of the presence in the Russian foreign policy agenda of the island nation in Southeast Asia a year ago, might seem unexpected. The crisis of Russian relations with the West forced the military-political leadership of our country to pay attention to new directions of development of trade-economic and military ties. The coming to power in the Philippines odious President Rodrigo Duterte proved to be very helpful.

Since the end of last year, the rhetoric of the official media hinted that the prospects of bilateral relations visible and reliable. As a result, representatives of major energy, construction, military-industrial companies, as well as just active players large and medium businesses, interested in new emerging markets, drew attention to the Republic of the Philippines.

To the accompaniment of a new agenda of trade and economic partnership, formed in January in Manila, the Russian-Philippine Commission on trade and economic cooperation, numerous round tables and presentations of SPIEF in may-June 2017 was designated the claim of Russia to become a major commercial, economic and military partner of the island nation.

Successful examples of beneficial cooperation, in which post-Soviet Russia would play the role of master, and not slave, not so much. It may be noted, for example, the experience of cooperation and assistance to Venezuela, where things are moving very negatively for the current regime. The development of bilateral relations between Russia and Philippines is complicated by the large number of factors, associated primarily with security and stability of the strategic course of the country.

After an eventful visit of the Philippine President in Moscow some people may think that Russia will easily be able to oust the U.S. from Islands in the Western Pacific, however, the capture of two hundred thousand of the city Marawi Islamic militants who have sworn allegiance to ISIS, has shown that opponents of Moscow is ready to act swiftly and consistently.

Islamists, Communists, drug dealers, pirates

22 July 2017, the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines voted for the extension for 5 months (until 31 December) martial law in the southern regions of the country, namely on the island of Mindanao. Despite the claims of politicians about the beginning of the operation to clean up the city, fighting for Marawi, which was captured on may 23, Islamist groups Abu Sayyaf Group Maute and other sworn allegiance to ISIS terrorist organizations is far from complete.

Operation, which, as planned, was to last a few days, is already more than two months; the government forces, among which the best units of the Philippine army and marine corps, are a serious loss.

The situation for Manila is complicated by the fact that apart from armed groups, Islamists, the island nation is at war with the mafia and the Communist rebel group New people's army, National democratic front, etc.
On the island of Mindanao has not been settled the issue with a national minority Moreau – part of which they are the main pillar of Islamic militants. The national liberation front Moro and Islamic liberation front Moro involved in the political process, however, many experts believe that at the local level, these organizations have links with Abu Sayyaf, a Group Maute, the Islamic Caliphate Mindanao and other Islamic terrorists, who announced in 2016 on the creation of "Vilayat" of ISIS.

Moreover, all these problems require complex solutions, being closely linked: drug trafficking, hostage-taking for ransom, piracy and other crimes are the source of earnings as Islamic terrorists and Communist insurgents.

Obviously, to cope with all these problems alone, the Philippine government is not able and, therefore, Manila needs a strong ally, who would provide military and economic support. Given the geographic location of the Philippines, the fight for this role is between the most powerful global and regional players.

American protector

Militarily an ally, and even protector of the island state had traditionally been the USA.

Bilateral relations in the defense sphere regulate 3 key documents: the mutual defense Treaty of 1951 (Mutual Defense Treaty), the Agreement on forces of the presence of 1998 (Visiting Forces Agreement) and signed in 2014 year Agreement on expansion of cooperation in the defense sector (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement).

In the country located 5 American military bases. Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly acted with loud statements, in which he expressed intention to stop military contacts with Washington.
In reality, however, in 2017 began the modernization of the us military infrastructure in the Philippines. Also significant is the fact that in 2017 the planned 258 in cooperation with the US exercise – only 5 less than in 2016.

The structure of the armed forces of the Republic of the Philippines (and political system) was constructed under the influence and on the model of the United States. Philippine military – from private to command staff – are trained in U.S. programs and standards. A significant part of armaments and military equipment Philippines get from Washington – though mostly we are talking about older designs, especially in terms of equipment.

Continuing on the Mindanao operation to liberate the city from Marawi Islamic militants showed that the US remains the main military ally of the Philippines, despite the difficulties in the relationship.

The American side gave Manila 2 aircraft Cessna C208B equipped with expensive systems for reconnaissance from the air, put rocket engines 1040, 992 rockets and 200 of 227-kilogram bombs. In the near future to delivery are planned 250 hand grenade SMAW and 1 thousand grenade launchers.

Direct participation in the fighting, American soldiers do not accept, but exploration in the skies over Marawi lead patrol aircraft P3 Orion, and the American SSO, based in southern Mindanao, are supporting government forces with the aid of drones.

Military cooperation between the two countries is underpinned by financial and trade and economic ties. However, States are not the main trading partner of the Philippines, occupying third and fourth place – by the volume of exports and imports, respectively.

Given the steady economic growth of Asian States, opening up major investment opportunities for countries interested in developing relations with Manila. For example, the Philippine side is looking for investors to start mothballed in 1984, nuclear power plants – and while the most likely partner is the state Corporation "Rosatom".

Friendly assistance of the Chinese enemy

The contradictory nature of the relationship of the Philippines with China. The growing power of Beijing and its military activity in the South China sea is considered by the Filipinos as one of the key foreign challenges.

So, in 2012, China actually established control over the Scarborough reef (Manila considers that its territory), and started strengthening the coral reefs and construction of artificial Islands with accommodation on the territory of military facilities (missile defense systems, radar systems, military airfields, etc.). The Philippines then asked to resolve the dispute in the Arbitration court in the Hague, which granted the petition of Manila.

6 April 2017 Duterte said about the intention to visit the Isle of Titus (near another disputed archipelago, the spratlys). This statement was regarded by many experts as part of the us plan to pressure on China during XI Jinping's visit to USA along with held then a strike on the airfield in Syria.

11 may have appeared messages about the fact that the Philippines started sending troops, materiel and training for the strengthening and construction of military facilities on the island Titus.

However, it would be naive to believe that Beijing will depart from the occupied area of the result of the judgment, statements of the Philippine President or even the placing of military forces of that country – especially given the fact that in this situation Duterte blamesthe U.S. and its inaction.

However, Rodrigo Duterte, seeking to diversify the supply of arms and military equipment and to reduce dependence on the US in terms of military security, looking for opportunities for cooperation with other countries.

However, the main military threats and risks to the Philippines are internal, and therefore the Philippine President is de facto a close eye on the activity of China in the South China sea – especially as Beijing is a major trading partner of Manila.

As a result, in the middle of an operation in Marawi – June 2017 – two Chinese military transport aircraft delivered to the Philippines 3 thousand assault rifles 5 million rounds of ammunition to them, as well as 90 sniper from 800 thousand rounds, respectively. This is only part of firearms purchased by Manila from Beijing.

However, a key tool for Chinese expansion is the economy.

China has already allocated 300 thousand dollars to rebuild Marawi, continues to send humanitarian aid in the near future will continue to invest in infrastructure development in Mindanao as a whole – the scenario tested by the Chinese side in Africa.

And what of Moscow?

After the election and the inauguration of the President of the Republic of the Philippines Rodrigo duterte the bilateral relations between Moscow and Manila developed by leaps and bounds – not only in trade-economic, energy, but also in the military sphere.

Within a few months the 2016-2017 year, meetings were held at the level of Deputy Ministers and Ministers of the two countries, devoted to the issues and prospects of military and military-technical cooperation.

In mid-February, Secretary of the Russian security Council Nikolai Patrushev headed the Russian delegation in the Philippine city of Davao. In the delegation were representatives of the foreign Ministry, defense Ministry, FSB, FSO and other agencies. The talks touched upon issues of cooperation in ensuring regional and international security.

It was planned that the culmination will be a meeting on may 25 in Moscow Putin and Duterte, where he will sign a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the military sphere, however, the capture of the city Marawi Islamic militants confused cards: the parties were forced to meet in 2 days before.

Despite this, the presidents of the two countries signed 11 documents, including a cooperation agreement in the field of defense. Heads of security Councils of the two countries also signed an agreement to share intelligence on terrorists and their sources of funding.

In late may representatives of the Philippine delegation in private conversations, expressed his hope for a quick supply of Russian weapons and military equipment – first of all, sniper rifles and other small arms, armored vehicles, attack and transport helicopters.

Many expected that the worsening situation in the South of the country will accelerate this process, but it is now clear that by the end of 2017 the contract signing would be unlikely.

Of course, you can say that the news of American, Chinese and even Australian support to the governmental forces of the Philippines Moscow's actions look slow and clumsy.

However, it is recognized that the starting position of the players in the region are difficult to compare, and existing risks are high and, therefore, require careful preparation.

Manila ready to purchase most of the weapons on own means – especially in comparison with American samples, Russian equipment features a much lower cost. And therefore it would be advisable to reduce lending (with Russia's traditional debt relief through the decades) to a minimum.

It is necessary to consider that the presidency is Duterte, according to the Philippine Constitution, is limited to a period of 6 years, and how thorough will lay the Foundation for military cooperation, depends, will he keep Russia its position after the expiration of his term.

This explains the involvement of Russian secret services in the training of security personnel, the Philippine President, attempted of which in the future may be repeated.

Alone to compete with global players, with the Philippines the strategic interests far beyond the economic potential, Russia will not be easy.

Therefore, it would be appropriate to use the interest of Manila to establish military cooperation with other regional States and to establish in the future a framework of a defensive Alliance, which could include the state (for example, Vietnam or India) who are interested in preserving the balance of power towards China.

At a relatively low cost to build such a structure could have a significant geopolitical effect.

Reading between the lines, it can be noted that signed by Russia and the Philippines, the agreement on cooperation in the field of defense provides for the exchange of experiences between soldiers of the two countries, which also implies the training of the military at different levels – from ordinary soldiers to officers.

This means that on the Islands in the Western Pacific ocean may soon appear (or already appeared) polite war in the form of the Philippine armed forces and Russian speaking.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law "On countering extremist activity"

The list of sources

  1. Philippine Congress Extends Martial Law in Besieged Region / The New York Times 22.07.2017
  2. In the Philippines under martial law after a collision of the troops with the forces of ISIS / the Business newspaper "Sight" 23.05.2017
  3. Neelov, V. Military policy of the Republic of the Philippines. Brief overview / Center for strategic estimates and projections 15.01.2017
  4. Philippines says U.S. to upgrade military bases, defense deal intact / Reuters 26.01.2017
  5. Philippine-US military exercises to be reduced next year / INQUIRER.NET 23.11.2016
  6. US delivers weapons for PAF amid Marawi siege / The Philippine Star 29.07.2017
  7. US gives surveillance planes to Philippines / The Sun Daily 27.07.2017
  8. The Philippines looks forward to working with Russia on nuclear energy / RIA Novosti 14.07.2017
  9. China's new Spratly island defenses / Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative 13.12.2016
  10. The media learned about the plans of Duterte to raise the flag of the Philippines on the disputed island / RIA Novosti 06.04.2017
  11. Duterte sent troops to the disputed island in South China sea / Lenta.ru05.2017
  12. Duterte: United States provoked tensions in the South China sea / IA Regnum03.2017
  13. Database Arlas Media
  14. China gives Philippines 3000 rifles, millions of ammunition / 28.06.2017
  15. Philippine GOV't readies plan to rebuild besieged Marawi city / XINHUANET 29.06.2017
  16. The documents signed during the visit of the President of the Republic of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte / 05.2017
  17. No Philippines-Russia security alliance, but closer economic ties / The Philippine Star 24.05.2017
  18. Terror groups in PHL: Removing the masks / Business Mirror Philippines 25.07.2017
  19. The attack turns the President of the Philippines, "the candidate for Chavez" / Business newspaper "Vzglyad" 29.11.2016
Vladimir NeelovSource: The business newspaper "Sight" 02.08.2017


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