MANILA - All countries should respect the will and desire of the Philippines and Russia to build a new partnership, its ambassador to Manila said Thursday.
After a US defense official warned against buying Russian military equipment, Moscow's representative in Manila emphasized that there should be no meddling in other countries' affairs.
"We don't make any comments on other relationships of the Philippines and the US or the Philippines and China or Japan or any other country," Ambassador Igor Khovaev told ANC in an exclusive interview.
"Simply because we consider you, the Philippines and any third country, as a sovereign state, it's up to them to build a partnership, alliance or ties," he said.
"All other countries should respect the will and desire of the Philippines and Russia to build a new partnership."
US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver, who was in Manila for a 2-day visit last week, had said that the Philippines' move to opt for a new defense supplier like Russia would be “an opportunity cost” for the Philippine military that will affect interoperability.
He was also quoted to have said the United States "can be a better partner than the Russians can be to the Philippines."
Schriver cited Russia’s record of annexing Crimea and involvement in a chemical attack in the United Kingdom.
The US has been the Philippines' main supplier of defense equipment, being a long-standing ally.
But for Khovaev, such anti-Russia rhetoric is propaganda by the West to maintain control over countries like the Philippines.
He said the Philippines needs to build its defense capabilities and that Russia can help.
"We never supply secondhand one, we only supply advanced arms. We are ready to supply sophisticated weapons and we are ready to train and share our experience. We are ready to help in improving your defense," he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is expected to be in Moscow this week along with other military officials to explore the possibility of buying Russian military equipment in efforts to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte has sought to build stronger ties with Russia and China, considered rivals of the US, the Philippines’ long-standing Pacific ally. The Philippine military has long relied on US hardware.
In October last year, Russia turned over 5,000 units of rifles, 20 multi-purpose vehicles, 1 million pieces of ammunition, and 5,000 steel helmets.
Duterte has also said government would no longer acquire hand-me-downs as he hit the US for giving or selling secondhand military equipment.