Marcos-Zelensky love-in underlines Manila’s strategic shift – Asia Times

Marcos-Zelensky love-in underlines Manila's strategic shift - Asia Times

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, paid a surprise attend to Manila, where he thanked his Spanish equivalent for agreeing to the future Switzerland-based Peace Summit.

The Ukrainian president planned to meet Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was the keynote speaker at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, but planning conflicts prevented them from meeting. Zelensky instead made the decision to travel directly to Manila.

The Russian president thanked the Marcos Jr. leadership for sending a “very strong sign” of cooperation and support by agreeing to the high-level peace summit, which includes Russia and has been boycotted by China and its allies, during his visit to the Malacaang Palace.

Zelensky thanked his Filipino hosts for their” clear position” on Russia’s “occupation of our territories,” citing the Philippines ‘ longstanding support for Ukraine in five distinct UN resolutions during the conflict’s first year. Just Japan and South Korea, both main democracies, have had similar election information in the region.

The Russian leader vowed to start a new embassy in Manila while enlisting the Philippines ‘ assistance in handling post-war trauma experienced by numerous Russian soldiers, underscoring his commitment to long-term corporate cooperation.

The Southeast Asian nation is in a special position to offer the war-ravaged country urgently needed medical care thanks to its world-class medical experts.

Zelensky’s traditional visit to Manila is also a component of a larger effort to unite besieged countries from Eastern Europe to the Western Pacific, which are in danger of being overthrown by autocratic powers.

After six years of vehemently anti-American and pro-China Rodrigo Duterte administration, the Philippines ‘ relations to Ukraine represent a dramatic change in its international plan strategy.

In response to growing cooperation between Russia and China, which have simultaneously advocated for a “new world get” to remove the liberal order established after World War II and supported by the US, West, and their allies, better Ukraine-Palestine ties are even a response.

The Philippines and Ukraine were moving in opposite information recently.

The Philippines started to significantly improve its ties with the authoritarian powers of Russia and China, despite its purported liberal democracy and US alliance status.

During his term in office, Duterte visited Moscow on two times and frequently underscored his choice for warmer relations with his “favorite warrior” and&nbsp, “idol” Vladimir Putin.

Under Duterte’s see, Russian&nbsp, vessels docked in Manila&nbsp, Bay for the first time in past. After boarding the visiting warships, Duterte called upon&nbsp, his guests to become “our ally to protect us”, so essentially implying that his anti- American regime was threatened by Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meet on the sidelines of the APEC summit last year. Photo: Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev via Reuters
Presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Rodrigo Duterte, then-President of the Philippines, on the sidelines of an APEC summit. Photo: Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev

In another first, Moscow also dispatched a defense attaché to Manila in order to explore large- scale military cooperation as well as defense acquisitions, including submarines, fighter jets and rifles.

In response to widespread extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s war on drugs campaign, the US State Department frozen a , the shipment of firearms , to the Philippine National Police and deferred , a major economic aid package.

For its part, Moscow vowed to offer affordable and effective weapons systems to reduce Manila’s dependence on Washington.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, however, rapidly undercut burgeoning bilateral relations with a whole host of partners, including the Philippines.

Even Duterte started to change his tune after Russia’s humiliating reversals in the first few months of what it referred to as a” special military operation” against Ukraine.

Amid mounting criticism and sanctions imposed against Moscow, the then- Filipino president quickly distanced himself from his Russia “idol” by stating in a mixture of Filipino and English,” The deaths ]of Ukrainian civilians ] may be true. But I am not like Putin. I did not order the killing of children, I do not bomb women”.

Duterte’s approach to Russia came on the heels of US ties starting to deteriorate following US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin’s mid-2021 visit to Manila and the subsequent full-restore of the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement.

Duterte had also begun to sour relations with China because of lingering maritime disputes in the South China Sea and unfulfilled promises to invest in large-scale infrastructure. &nbsp,

In addition, the Philippines ‘ diplomatic elite largely defended its Western allies and Ukraine in various international forums. In fact, the Philippines became the only ASEAN member to consistently support Ukraine and denounce Russian hostility.

So when Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office, it was only a matter of time before the Philippines completely reverted to its original strategic flirtation with Russia.

The Marcos Jr. administration made it clear that it would be replacing the US-$ 216 million deal for Russian Mi-17 helicopters in favor of American counterparts just months into office.

However, this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue talk show featured both Marcos Jr and Zelensky standing as proponents of a rules-based international order in opposition to Russian and Chinese revanchism.

For his part, Marcos Jr criticized China’s “illegal, coercive, aggressive and deceptive actions” in the South China Sea, and warned of the “permanent fact” of China’s aim to achieve “determining influence over the security situation and the economic evolution of this region”.

In addition, Zelensky addressed the major defense summit in a surprise appearance, where he focused on the growing Sino-Russian alliance at the expense of the current international order. Zelensky has allegedly faced several assassination plots by Russian agents. &nbsp,

Zelensky directly questioned China’s claim to “neutrality” by accusing the Asian superpower of supporting Russian diplomatic and military endeavors at the expense of Ukrainian peace.

The Ukrainian leader echoed Western intelligence agencies by claiming there are” Chinese ] elements that are part of Russia’s weaponry and that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had earlier promised to” stand aside in this war and would not support Russia with weapons.”

” It is unfortunate that such a big, independent, powerful country as China is an instrument in the hands of Putin”, the Ukrainian leader said referring to Russia’s president.

In response, China’s foreign ministry clarified that the upcoming peace summit” should have the recognition of Russia and Ukraine]as equal partners ]. Otherwise, it is challenging for the conference to contribute significantly to restoring peace.

Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun asserted earlier that Beijing had put” strict controls” on the exports of dual-use technology to Russia to maintain China’s neutrality in the Ukraine conflict. &nbsp,

” We have never attempted to ignite the flames.” In his speech at Shangri-La Dialogue, the Chinese defense chief said,” We stand firmly on the side of peace and dialogue.

It’s unclear how Ukraine and the Philippines, two American allies deeply dependent on Western military support, can assist each other in concrete terms.

In recent years, bilateral trade has been mediocre, with only$ 16.9 million worth of trade in 2022. Ukraine, which has yet to establish a permanent mission in Manila, currently has only 25 Filipinos residing there.

Nevertheless, Marcos Jr offered immediate humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance to his Ukrainian counterpart, in addition to growing diplomatic cooperation.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine are greeted on June 3, 2024 during a courtesy visit to the Malacasian Palace. Photo: PPA Pool / KJ Rosales

” I’m happy to do everything in my power to help, especially the innocent people and the civilians who are at risk of dying in the war,” he said. This is something that the Philippines naturally do, so we could pursue this,” Marcos said, implying Philippine participation in post-war reconstruction and recovery.

For critics, however, Zelensky and Marcos Jr represent Western puppets who are part of a broader US- led “proxy war” against Russia and China.

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent visit to Malacañang is part of US imperialist war designs to portray Marcos Jr as the new poster boy for its proxy war versus China”, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the country’s main communist force, said in a statement.

The stunt, according to the statement,”… the US is positioning the Philippines as a key player in its wider strategy to counter its imperialist rival – China” by referring to puppet regimes like the Philippines and Ukraine.

Follow Richard Javad Heydarian on X at @Richeydarian &nbsp,