Russian Ships in Manila Signal Shifting Alliances

Philippine President Duterte and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
Vadim Savitsky\TASS via Getty Images

Russian Ships in Manila Signal Shifting Alliances

As the United States distances itself from the Philippines, Russia and China are swooping in to fill the void.

Following up on promises made earlier in the year, three Russian ships arrived in the Philippines to deliver donated weapons.

Even after months of intense fighting against the Islamic State in the south of this island chain, there is still no clear indication of when the struggle will be over. The conflict has already taken many lives. According to reports, more than 1,000 people have been killed, with more than 1,500 having to be rescued from the war-torn city of Marawi.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte swiftly confronted the terrorists, shelling large sections of the city. However, his firm response brought disapproval from Western nations like the United States.

The Philippines has long been a friend to the U.S., but ever since the election of the abrasive Duterte, the U.S. government has been pulling away from its ally. Gradually the U.S. military has been scaling back its presence in the region, leaving the small southeastern nation more exposed than it has been at any time since World War ii. President Duterte has acknowledged this shift in the political landscape and has wasted no time in courting the world’s other major powers: Russia and China.

In a speech in September 2016, Duterte claimed that, moving into the next year, his fellow countrymen would see the beginning of “new alliances” with Russia and China. Speaking of the American government’s intention to distance itself from his regime, he said, “I am asking the Filipinos in the coming days, if America will make good its threat, I’m going to ask you to sacrifice a little bit. But by next year, I would have entered into so many new alliances with so many countries.”

That same week he unveiled his plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “I would have alliances on trade and commerce with China. Russia has agreed to talk about how they can help us here,” he announced.

As far back as January, Russian diplomats have been talking about how they can aid the Philippines in its fight against the Islamic State. On January 4, Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovanev addressed the subject, saying that the Russian government was standing ready to assist the Philippine armed forces by supplying sophisticated weapons, “including aircraft and submarines.” He painted the Philippine government in a sympathetic light, saying how the Russian people understood the importance of diversifying foreign partners.

Since then, many Russian Navy warships have made port in the Philippines, in greater numbers and frequency than ever before. The last of these arrived heralding the arrival of crates of assault rifles for the Philippine military, making good on Russia’s promise to supply its new ally with donated weapons. China has already donated thousands of weapons, and it seems that Russia is soon to follow suit.

We can expect the Philippines to draw ever closer to these new allies to the East—allies who seem more than eager to make a new friend in the South China Sea. While the Philippine government benefits greatly from the advanced military hardware of Russia and China, these two nations also gain a significant advantage by allying with this small Southeast Asian nation.

The Philippines occupies a very strategic location next to the South China Sea. Those waters host economically vital shipping routes: waterways that are responsible for more than half the world’s shipping tonnage. In addition to controlling some of those trade routes, the Philippines acts as an important bastion for America’s smaller allies in the region.

In a special brief, Jim Thomas of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments wrote:

It would be difficult to overestimate what is at stake in America’s relationship with the Philippines. Accommodation by the Philippines to China’s increasing diplomatic pressure and military intimidation would signal the waning of U.S. power in Asia. It would grant China the ability to control the whole of the South China Sea as well as the strategic Luzon Strait, making it very difficult for the U.S. to navigate or counter moves against other allies and partners in the region.

In short, the dissolution of the Philippines’ relationship with America and the new partnership with Asia’s superpowers spell disaster for the United States. Each year, $5.3 trillion worth of trade passes through the South China Sea—roughly one third of the planet’s maritime commerce.

The Philippines’ shift to China is a natural result of the rise of the Asian giant and the shrinking influence of the U.S. But it is also a trend the Trumpet and its predecessor, the Plain Truth, have watched for some time. In 1981, for example, the Plain Truth forecast a great alliance stretching “from the Persian Gulf eastward to the South China Sea.”

“The remainder of Southeast Asia—including the Philippines—will undoubtedly find it difficult [to resist this alliance],” the article stated.

Why this forecast? “Bible prophecy foretells the future emergence of a great Eurasian alliance, a Communist-dominated confederacy encompassing nearly one half of the earth’s population!” the article explained. Scriptures such as Revelation 16:12 talk about an alliance formed by “the kings of the east.” The Philippines will find it hard to avoid being sucked into, or at least heavily influenced by, such an alliance.

This alliance is building right now. For more on where this alliance is leading, read “Will America’s Asian Allies Pivot to China?