Russian warship visit part of broader pivot to Asia: analyst

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2017 04:29 PM | Updated as of Jan 06 2017 06:49 PM

MANILA - The visit of Russian warships to the Philippines signals Russia’s broader pivot to Asia, an analyst said on Friday.

“With this visit, you have Russia putting flesh and steel into its pivot to Asia policy. This is the first time Russia has sent warships to the PH since the end of the cold war so in historical terms, this is unprecedented,” political analyst Richard Heydarian said in an interview on “[email protected]

According to Heydarian, Russia’s pivot to the East is brought about by three main reasons: the need for more investments; the need to re-assert its historical presence in the Western Pacific; and the need to look for alternative markets.

“Russia is already looking for war ports because they don’t have too many war ports around the world to project their power,” he said.

Heydarian also observed that Russia’s pivot to the region is more military than economic, with its military exports to Asia doubling from 2010 to 2015.

Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev on Wednesday denied plans of seeking a military alliance with the Philippines, saying such an alliance is not necessary.

But Russia may be positioning itself as a global player with its pivot to Asia and may simply want to have a “strategic presence” and be a “pillar of stability” apart from the United States, said Heydarian.

If the Philippines wants to modernize and bulk up its military, Heydarian said Russia is a good option for artillery since they provide more affordable weapons.

However, to foster the relationship between the two countries, Heydarian emphasized the need for a legal foundation to establish a long-term cooperation.

“If you really wanna have an institutionalized and tangible long term cooperation with Russia, we need a legal foundation for that,” 
Heydarian said, noting that the two countries can sign a memorandum of understanding or a strategic partnership agreement.

He added that he does not see a “concrete blossoming” in the relationship of the Philippines with Russia in the coming months since there is an apparent gap among government officials.

“I see some sort of a gap between President Rodrigo Duterte’s excitement about better relationships with Russia and more notes of sobriety on the part of [Defense Secretary Delfin] Lorenzana and much of the bureaucracy,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Friday, Duterte visited Russian ship Admiral Tributs ship which is docked in Manila for a goodwill visit until Saturday.