The United States assured that possible future military drills between the Philippines and Russia will not have any negative effects on its relationship with Manila.
“What I can promise you is that it won’t affect how we view the importance of our bilateral relationship with the Philippines,” U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a press briefing on Tuesday, January 3.
Kirby also reiterated that the “defense relationship between the United States and the Philippines remains very, very strong.”
“Our overall mil-to-mil relations remain robust, they remain multifaceted, and that’s the way we want to see it continue,” he added.
Kirby then pointed out that every country has the right to pursue bilateral relationships with other countries.
“I think I’d let the Philippine government and the Russian government speak to the degree of their bilateral defense relations and how that is taking shape. I’ve said many times – and this is a good example of it – that foreign relations aren’t binary. Right? And these choices that countries have to make are not binary choices, and every nation-state has the right to pursue bilateral relations of its own choosing,” he remarked.
He said that the U.S. respects any possible military drills between the Philippines and Russia.
Earlier this week, two Russian Navy vessels—anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs and sea tanker Boris Butoma—arrived in Manila for a goodwill visit.
“Our governments will maybe discuss in some period of time the possibilities of our maritime exercises,” Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of Flotilla of Pacific Fleet of Russia, said in a conference through an interpreter.
“The Philippine Navy needs some help, we will help. The problem here is terrorism and piracy. You have the task to fight this problem and we will show you what we can do,” he added.
The Russian vessels were expected to stay in the country until Saturday, January 7.
According to Mikhailov, a passing exercise with the Philippine Navy in Manila Bay will be held over the weekend as part of the send-off ceremony and naval customs and tradition.
“These maneuvers will take place on January 7 when we start our route from the point of Manila. There will be exercises and maneuvering in the territorial waters of the Philippines,” he said.
‘No military alliance’
Despite expressing interest in holding military drills, the Russian government, however, clarified that Moscow is not seeking a military alliance with Manila.
“If some countries create close military alliances, it means that they want to ensure their security to some extent in expense of other members of the international community,” Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev said in a press conference. “It’s not the way for us.”
Khovaev noted that the relationship between Russia and the Philippines is “not about alliance” but “about partnership and friendship.”
“We never use military cooperation as a kind of political leverage on our partners,” Khovaev said.
“Military cooperation with Russia has no political conditionality. That’s the best possible assurance and in the history of military ties in all our partners around the world there has never been any kind of interference or link to political pressure,” he added.
The ambassador also clarified that Russia will play no role in the territorial disputes within the Asia-Pacific region.
“Russia is not a party to these disputes and we have neither intention nor desire to become one. We don’t take sides in these disputes but at the same time, as a responsible permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the Russian federation has been speaking for many years in favor of exclusively peaceful solution of these disputes,” Khovaev said.
Although the ambassador refused to comment on Manila’s military relationships with other nations, such as with its long-time ally, the United States, Khovaev emphasized that “no other country should interfere with the relationship between the Philippines and Russia.”