Philippine moth, Russian flame?

21

SASS ROGANDO SASOT

Two words-AHISTORICAL and ignorant -aptly describe “Duterte of the Philippines plays with Russian fire,” an article by Anders Corr published in Forbes magazine (April 20, 2016). Corr foresees nothing but horrors for the Philippines as Duterte ventures to diversify our diplomatic relations. Like the what happened to the unfortunate moth in the fable that Rizal’s mother taught him,Corr warns against flying too close to Russia. Otherwise, our hard-won freedom would wear away like a young moth’s wings being licked by the flame. Contrary to Corr’s fears, Duterte isn’t offering our country on the altar of autocracy. Just like Claro M. Recto in the 1950s, Duterte simply advocates a non-discriminatory foreign policy. Engage with every country, regardless of their culture, values and political system, as long as it’s beneficial to our national interest.

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As a realist, I believe that interests and not values should serve as the compass for our foreign policy. And interests aren’t formed by morality but by necessity. As US diplomat and historian George Kennan explained, “they are the unavoidable necessities of a national existence and therefore not subject to classification as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.” Our national interest is fleshed out by the three pillars of our foreign policy: protection and preservation of national security; promotion and attainment of economic security; and the protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos.

Corr never mentioned the national interest of the Philippines at all. No explanation on how closer ties with Russia would harm any of the pillars of our foreign policy. All he did was to spread fear based on his prejudices against Russia and ignorance of Duterte and the Philippines.

He worries that Russia would be supportive of Duterte’s “anti-democratic tendencies,” which include “extrajudicial war on drugs…repeated interest in declaring martial law and suspending elections.”

Extra-judicial means without legal sanction. How is the Philippine war on drugs “extra-judicial” when Duterte is simply following the Letter of Instructions No. 1 that former President Gloria Arroyo issued in July 2001? It’s still operational. Declaring the illegal drug trade a national security threat, LOI 1 orders the dismantling and neutralization of “all drug syndicates, producers, traffickers, pushers and their cohorts in the police/military/government office.” Thus, the war is both legal and legitimate, necessary for the protection and preservation of our national security.

All Constitutions in the world, including those of democratic states, allow martial law if national security warrants it. What exactly is anti-democratic about Duterte declaring his willingness to use all the powers conferred on the President by the Constitution when circumstances compel him to do so? Lastly, the election suspension Duterte talks about is in relation to the barangay. The 2016 barangay election was actually postponed for a year by a law passed by Congress. In fact, Senator Leila de Lima was one of the sponsors of the Senate version of that law.

Duterte is simply requesting Congress for another postponement because a lot of barangay officials are involved in the illegal drug trade.

Corr also worries about the weapons we will procure from Russia. He fears that arms bought from Russia “could be used to suppress the Philippine people” without reproof from the supplier. But are Russian materiel more prone to be used for sinister purposes? Corr should read the article of Zach Toombs and R. Jeffrey Smith that appeared in Foreign Policy magazine (June 21, 2012), which exposed how the United States has been actively exporting weapons even to countries “actively repressing their own citizens.” And in September 2015, John Lindsay-Poland of the American Friends Service Committee, wrote about how weapons from democratic countries continue flowing to Mexico despite its drug war already claiming at least 100,000 lives.

That closer ties with Russia will erode our freedoms is belied by the case of Vietnam and LGBT rights. Vietnam and Russia have been enjoying close economic, military, and political relations since the 1950s. While the Russian Duma adopted in 2013 the so-called anti-gay propaganda law, Vietnam’s National Assembly unbanned same-sex marriage and enacted a law allowing transsexual people who have undergone sex reassignment surgery to change their sex legally. Did Russia stop Vietnam? No. Meanwhile, American evangelical groups have been wreaking havoc on the lives of LGBTs in African countries, pushing for laws that would either imprison or execute gay people.

Corr wants us to ally closer with India because we’re both democracies. However, despite being the largest democracy in the world, India has had strong bilateral relations with Russia since the 1950s. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia is the biggest arms supplier of India: from 2000 to 2016, India imported a total of $30.7 billion worth of weapons from Russia. Throughout their decades-long relationship, they’ve cooperated in defense, economy, energy, and science and technology. India didn’t become the desolate and spineless state Corr thinks a country would become once it gets closer to Russia.

Russia has not shown any interest in carving a sphere of influence outside its “near abroad” composed of former Soviet states. Unlike the United States, Russia isn’t also evangelizing its values and re-creating the rest of the world in its own image. Rather than a country’s ideological leanings, what’s important for Russia is its political stability. Forget Corr. The Philippines should continue befriending Russia. However, just ensure that it will serve our national interest, in the same way that friendship with Moscow continues to be a boon for Vietnam and India.

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21 Comments

    • Sass Sasot is suggesting for Anders Corr to read more when trying to “interpret” what an outsider sees. It is sometimes helpful for such outsider to “describe” what he sees, but his “interpretations” of such observations can be shown as ignorant (because, outsider).

    • Unfortunately, Anders Corr, your analysis is incomplete.

      You ought to learn from Dr. David Camroux of Sciences-Po in Paris… He is an outsider too, but he has an extremely well-grounded and extremely well-informed understanding of the Philippine situation and what Duterte is doing and why it is generally beneficial.

      Your understanding of the Philippines and geopolitics is incomplete and shows a major blindspot because you don’t even understand that India has long been a friend of Russia. India even forced the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love” to be retitled because they didn’t want to upset a friend-nation (Russia).

      How could you even miss that?

      You are so blinded by your hatred of Duterte and of China and Russia that you are unable to see that this is simply a pragmatic strategy of diversifying our alliances.

      What exactly was it you did your PhD in? How can you not even know such basic stuff?

  1. It is not the first time we open and send message of friendship with Russia. The diplomatic ties of the Philippines and the Soviet Union was reinitiated by President Ferdinand Marcos. DU30 just follow the footstep of President Marcos, open diplomatic relationship to all countries, especially with China and Russia.

    • I may agree but Marcos failed by a people power revolt sponsored by the jealous western country who is in love if not obsessed to the Philippines so much.. Marcos lost his power because of external support but do you think Duterte will fail? the answer is NO… Duterte is not here to fail to to deliver… As long as majority people will believe in him, then Duterte will remain in power.. Mainstream Media are no longer source of reliable information but networking so lets just hope and pray for Duterte because even the ICC started their plot to oust Duterte, They dont have legal grounds for the complaints. They must define first what is the meaning of their complaint and match it with the laws.. in which so far, I could not see any solid evidence that ICC intervention would prosper

  2. Ogie de Guzman on

    And who is Anders Carr of Forbes magazine ? What expertise does he have on the Philippines ? Did he write based on perceptions, what he could scrape up from mainstream media in the Philippines or the grapevine therein? Or perhaps, another writer just making do because he had a deadline to keep ?

  3. Brilliant analysis. As to who is the biggest terrorist in the world all we have to see which country has been waging NONSTOP wars in modern history many times SIMULTANEOUSLY destroying countries in the name of Democracy which is only lip service. Truly, many will be deceived in the last days.

  4. Andres Iniesto on

    I agree with the writer! Filipinos must decide for themselves what is best for them. Not by dictates or scare tactics of foreign countries. Where is the Phil now after centuries of exploitation by their so called ‘allies and trusted’ friends. Down and still going down the bottom of the heap. While other developing nations are going up, up and up economically.

    • Mga Imbento, I think the picture will look quite different if you limited the poll to Filipinos with EXTENSIVE interaction with people of foreign nationalities (especially those who dealt with both Russians and Americans on a person-to-person basis)!

    • Mga_imbento on

      @REALIST… have you read the latest survey? Filipinos still love the US.. I will bet to you that almost all adult Filipinos can give at-least 10 famous Americans(mostly NBA players) than Russians. =)

  5. This America hater Sass Sasot seems determined to see filipinos lose all their freedoms and become servants of Russia. Duterte is playing a dangerous game with the future of the Philippines and it could backfire on him in significant ways. Like Sasot, Duterte needs to remember how many ties filipinos have with the U.S. after almost 120 years of close relations.

    • And look where it led us through all the years after Marcos rule? So many Presidents were helped by the US to lead our country to what? Perdition, I call it! Thanks to the awakened Pilipinos and have chosen a leader suitable to the need of many generations to come. We support Duterte and his program. Why? We are law abiding citizens, that is why. We hate corruption and grafts against our people. We will be vigilant just like Ms. Sassot f m now on.

    • Sultan Kudarat on

      120 years of US-PH relationship? That’s more like 120 years of US imperialism over the Philippines. Please go read “Philippine Reader: A history of neocolonialism” by Stephen Shalom to find out how the US interfered with Philippine politics. Don’t forget about the Filipino-American war where millions of Filipinos died just to prevent the US from colonizing the Philippines. All Filipinos, from Ilocanos to Tagalogs to the Moro Muslims. What would have happened if the US didn’t destroy the Filipino independence back in 1898? You white people think we Filipinos still need to be educated? We had an ancient historical culture along with our Asian neighbors. We had our own writing system called the Baybayin. Cebu, Sulu, and the Ilocos were ancient trading regions in Asia.

    • 120 years hmm. where are we now? Why are our defences still on WW2 era. What happen during the last 120 years ? Why are they not selling us even small firearms for our police.? Have you read any existing agreement between US and Phils .? I guess not cause you stick still with the Americans. I have so many relatives in US . Most of my friends are US servicemen . Even my pastor is an American missionary . But I am a Filipino and after reading some of the articles in US_Phil agreement. Ive come to realize that those past 120 years my so called friends are making a fool out of me..Tama na Sobra na..

  6. For future reference spelling a guy’s name right and knowing his background is beneficial.

    CORR has worked in military intelligence for 10 years.
    A Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University, and a B.A. and M.A. in international relations from Yale University (Summa cum laude).

    Russian arms sales are not just about generating revenue but peddling ideology, buying influence, and obtaining political leverage.
    You do not get one without the other.
    “Buy one, get one free”

    India may be the largest democracy but it is categorised as a ‘flawed democracy’, which is the same UN classification as given to The Philippines.

    It should also be noted that India is actually reducing its arms spending with Russia, and instead increasing it with US & France, but to understand India’s past and current arms procurement policy you need to know about the geo-politics of India and Pakistan and the role played by Russia.

    But India is actually a red herring. The main point being made by Corr is ‘caveat emptor’.
    The insularity of filipinos do not make them good negotiators, as the article highlights, and Duterte has already displayed his inexperience when it comes to international relations.

    The global arms trade accounts for circa 40% of all global corruption, by value, and Russia’s largest arms buyers are predictably some of the most corrupt regimes/countries in the world.
    India – 79th in the global ranking corruptions index, (CPI by Transparency International.)
    China – 82nd in CPI
    Iraq – 166th in CPI
    Pakistan – 116th …
    Algeria – 108th ..
    Venezuela – 165th
    Syria – 142nd
    Sudan – 171st
    Uganda – 151st
    Libya – 170th
    Bangladesh – 145th

    The Philippines, with a corruption ranking of 101st, will be joining a motley collection of countries ruled by authoritarian leaders with a history of violence and human rights abuses. The mad and the bad stick together. Very dutertesque.

    Corr also raises the valid point of debt trap diplomacy which is predominantly a chinese approach but is sometimes used by Russia in arms deals.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch, and things given for free can turn out to be the most expensive, in many ways.

    The key point which can be agreed upon is that Putin’s ideology and values have no place in The Philippines.

    Realpolitik may seem simple in the textbooks, but you need a breadth and depth of understanding and experience to appreciate the nuances and drivers.
    Try spending time in Russia, which i know well.
    Reality on the ground is very different to fantasy in the classroom.

    As Frank Zappa said,
    ” the mind is like a parachute – it works better when it is open”.

    • 1. No country becomes a good negotiator overnight. How do they become good negotiators? By negotiating, committing mistakes, and learning from them.

      2. Realpolitik isn’t the same as realism.

      3. Certainly, it’s not the weapons of Russia that made those countries corrupt. The Philippines has been buying weapons from the US…As if the buyer’s of US weapons have no history of violence and human rights abuses. Hmmm…why would we go far? The US is a massive human rights abuser!

      4. “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and things given for free can turn out to be the most expensive, in many ways.”

      — Sure. But what can you say about Vietnam maintaining its independence?

    • the countries you mentioned are corrupt; true. and our country too has its own corruption… but all those countries combined including ours- are still less corrupt that the united states. …
      why?

      well, at least… our their corruption and our corruption stays within our borders…. while the US encircles the globe….

      the financial crisis is caused by US corruption…. the wars and genocides in middle east are mainly caused by american corporate greed and corruption…. and many… many more.

      so don’t worry about the corruption ranking of our country.. we will never declare war on another country only bec. we want to steal their wealth and natural resources.

    • I too have my doubts about this writer’s qualifications to speak on this subject when he can’t even spell the name of the person he is bashing correctly, or spell “ahistorical” correctly, for that matter.

      I have noticed that Mr. Sasot plays up the fact that he is taking up a masters degree in international relations to pretend that he is some sort of expert on the subject, despite the fact that he hasn’t actually attained the degree yet. Duterte’s blind followers uncritically eat it up, of course. But to me, Mr. Sasot’s international relations “analysis” always strikes me as myopic, juvenile, and reflecting an inadequate understanding of IR principles.

    • You are correct indeed .An open mind work better . You have to Open yours!. making a comparison or analogy whatever you name it. with corruption on Arm deal with Russia is just for stupid. Even kids know that their is no relationship on this two subject. Our weapons are from USA since time memorial and sadly our Government is corrupt. But now I believe God has given us PD30 to solve our corruption problem. I just hope and pray that I will close my eyes soon being proud about my Government.