The Russian Navy is visiting the Philippines for “regional threat assessment drills,” as Russian state outlet Sputnik News puts it. While they are in town, the Russians are wooing the Filipinos with arms deals and crazy Kung Fu performances.
The latter came courtesy of the Russian Marines, who “shattered glass bottles with their heads and smashed burning wooden planks against each other as part of an eye-catching charm offensive in the Philippines,” as the UK Daily Mail reports:
The camouflage-clad Marines showed off their pistol-shooting, knife-fighting and martial arts skills to the Filipino public in Manila’s central park as part of a ‘goodwill visit’.
As bewildered passers-by watched, the Russians smashed boards with their fists, had cinder blocks crushed on their stomachs and endured beatings from flaming planks.
The show culminated with them smashing glass bottles on their heads without any visible effect.
After the display, eager Filipinos rushed to take ‘selfies’ with the beret-wearing Russians.
‘The performances were great, the stunts were quite impressive,’ gushed student Antonio Chua.
The Russians also invited Filipinos to attend an open house aboard one of the two warships making a rare port call.
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev spoke of Russia’s eagerness to “supply small arms and light weapons, some aeroplanes, helicopters, submarines, and many, many other weapons.”
“Sophisticated weapons. Not the second-hand ones,” added Khovaev, clearly a consummate salesman.
The Russians see an opportunity in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “pivot” away from the United States, although Khovaev was careful to state that Moscow didn’t want to interfere with the Philippines’s relationship with its “traditional partners.”
“It’s not a choice between these partners and those ones. Diversification means preserving and keeping old traditional partners and getting new ones. So Russia is ready to become a new reliable partner and close friend of the Philippines,” the ambassador said. “We don’t interfere with your relations with your traditional partners and your traditional partners should respect the interest of the Philippines and Russia.”
Duterte has specifically complained about reluctance in Washington to sell his country weapons, largely due to the bloody crackdown Duterte is waging against drug dealers — a war with a death toll in the thousands.
Reuters reports that Russia has expressed interest in holding maritime operations with the Philippines to “help combat terrorism and piracy.” Even Duterte announced a reduction in the number of joint naval drills with the United States and ordered those drills moved out of the South China Sea to avoid provoking China.