After Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made noises weeks ago about wanting to diversify his country’s alliance portfolio to include China and Russia, two Russian warships sailed into Manilla for a four day visit. Russia’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev, took the opportunity to make a public appearance and do what Russian officials have made into a sort of sport during the Obama Administration: troll the United States. Reuters:
“We don’t interfere with your relations with your traditional partners and your traditional partners should respect the interest of the Philippines and Russia.” […]
“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.
“Russia has a lot to offer but everything will be done in full compliance with international law.” .
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.
“Your traditional partners should not be concerned about the military ties … If they are concerned, it means they need to get rid of clichés,” he said.
The jab about “clichés” are in reference to the Obama Administration’s protestations over Duterte’s violent crackdown on drug users across the country, a campaign that has reportedly left thousands dead.
The incoming Trump Administration has given indications that it will greatly back off with its criticisms of the internal affairs of other countries, but that may not be the final word on the matter. The United States has always been subject to a tension between a kind of foreign policy pragmatism and a commitment to human rights, and it’s a battle that has often played out between the executive and Congress. Congress has already pushed the Obama Administration’s hand on human rights in the Philippines, and some Republicans in the House and Senate are girding for a fight with Trump over how he handles Russia. Watching how that dynamic plays out will be an early tell on how a Trump foreign policy will develop in the coming four years.