Russian warships under scrutiny after Philippines trip

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A Philippine Navy band plays as the Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs prepares to dock during the ship's arrival at the international port in Manila on April 8, 2019. Admiral Tributs arrived in Manila along with the Vinogradov and sea tanker Irkut as part of a goodwill visit. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)
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Sailors stand on the deck of the Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs during the ship's arrival at the international port in Manila on April 8, 2019. Admiral Tributs arrived in Manila along with the Vinogradov and sea tanker Irkut as part of a goodwill visit. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)
Updated 08 April 2019
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Russian warships under scrutiny after Philippines trip

  • Second visit this year a bid to strengthen ties between Manila and Moscow, experts say
  • The Russian warships' visit coincides with the joint US-Philippine military exercises

MANILA: Three Russian Pacific Fleet warships docked in Manila on Monday for a five-day goodwill visit.

The arrival of the ships, the Admiral Vinogradov, the Admiral Tributs and the Irkut, coincides with the annual US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises, raising questions over the timing of the visit.

The Philippine Navy stressed there was no “political” motive behind the Russian Navy’s move, and that it was not connected to the exercises.

Capt. Sergey G. Alantiev, commander of the Russian detachment, said the visit was to foster naval cooperation with the Philippines, replenish supplies and give shore leave to the crew.

“When we planned this visit with our Philippine counterparts, we did not discuss Balikatan. In fact, I only found out it’s going on very recently,” Alantiev said.

“Since it (Balikatan) doesn’t prevent us from carrying out this visit, and it doesn’t create any inconvenience, we decided to continue.”

The Balikatan exercises began on April 1 and will run until April 12, the day the Russian detachment is due to leave Manila.

This is the second time the Russian Navy has visited the capital this year, and Alantiev noted that port calls by Russian and Philippine vessels to each other’s waters had been taking place on a regular basis for some time.

Last year, the Philippine warship BRP Tarlac made a historic visit to the Russian port of Vladivostok on the country’s Pacific coast.

“We strongly believe that the only way to cope with present-day threats and challenges is through partnership, and by combining efforts and resources,”Alantiev added.

For the Philippine government, hosting Russian Navy warships is an important component of continuing efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries.

“This will enhance and sustain peace, stability and maritime cooperation,” said Capt. Constancio Arturo Reyes Jr. “We are looking forward to strengthening this bilateral relationship.”

The Philippines is the oldest ally of the US in the Asia-Pacific region, but since President Rodrigo Duterte’s election, his administration has pursued an independent foreign policy, veering away from its longstanding US military and economic alliance and shifting towards Russia and China.

When asked whether the visit could be counterproductive to fostering peace as a result of Russia’s frosty relations with the US, Alantiev said: “We have outstanding relations and a good rapport with the US Navy, and all efforts aimed at peace and stability in the region, be they Russian or American, serve the same purpose.”

The Philippines’ defense spokesman, Arsenio Andolong, admitted that the timing of the Russian fleet’s arrival could be interpreted in a number of misleading ways.

“I really want to keep it clear that it’s just a friendly visit. With all due respect to the Americans, Balikatan is being held in our house and we can accept guests to come here. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he told Arab News.

“If they (the Russians) were here to attack the Americans, that’s a different story, but they are here on a diplomatic port call.”

Andolong also stressed that just because the Philippines was opening its doors to Russia and China did not mean that it was turning away from its “big brother” the US, nor that Russia and China were now priorities for Duterte.

“We are now more actively engaging Russia and China in accordance with the President’s ‘friend to all, enemy to no one’ policy. Our ties with the US are still there and our two countries’ alliance is still evident in how we deal with each other. The only change is that the communication has become more honest and straightforward — we say what we want to say and they say what they want to say.

“There are many possibilities if we pursue our current foreign policy, particularly with Russia. I think it’s good — it will allow us to take stock of how the global community is growing in terms of defense. By opening our doors, we are able to develop better understanding of our friends overseas.”

Meanwhile, in a post on Twitter, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said that the US would remain the Philippines’ sole military ally.

“The US (is) the only world power that is a bastion of democracy and human rights, (it) is and will remain our only military ally. We don’t need any other,” he tweeted on Sunday.

 

 

 


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.