Duterte talks to Putin about distrust with US, hypocrisy of the West
LIMA, Peru — Sparks flew at the first meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and his idol Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting here with Mr. Duterte wasting no time in complaining about the West to the Russian leader.
Right out of the gate, the volatile Mr. Duterte, who had long expressed admiration for Putin’s strongman rule, talked about his distrust toward the United States and other Western countries, oblivious of the fact that Russia technically belonged in the West.
“I have been looking for this moment to meet you, Mr. President, not only because you represent your country but [because] of your leadership, too,” the Philippine president told Putin, who formally extended an invitation to Mr. Duterte to visit Russia during their exchange.
In his trademark style, Mr. Duterte talked about the “hypocrisy” of the West in intervening in the affairs of other countries while advancing their own interests.
“They want to seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what’s wrong with America and the others. They are waging war in so many places: in Vietnam, Afghanistan and in Iraq,” he said.
“And for one single reason that there was a weapon of mass destruction [in Iraq] and there was none. They insist, if you are allied with them that they follow you. They go to the Korean War, nothing happened. They did not defeat them,” Mr. Duterte said.
The talk between the two leaders was held at about 12 noon Saturday (1 a.m. Manila time) in a hotel room under tight security with the media allowed to cover only the first 10 minutes before being shepherded out.
It was the first meeting between the Russian and Filipino leaders, though Mr. Duterte had been making plenty of friendly overtures toward the latter. Last week, the Philippine president spoke about his readiness to join a “new world order” under the leadership of China and Russia.
In their first bilateral meeting, Putin, clad in a dark suit, acted like Mr. Duterte’s host, warmly shaking his hand and offering his to the rest of the Philippine contingent, which included his right-hand man, Christopher “Bong” Go and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who were spotted taking selfies during the meeting.
By contrast, Mr. Duterte did not offer a handshake to Putin’s subordinates and was the first to sit down in his seat.
The Russian was all-smiles at first but his expression turned serious as Mr. Duterte began speaking. An interpreter was at his side to translate the exchange.
The two leaders had barely warmed their seats when the Philippine president began a rambling litany of complaints against the West.
The President said something had stood between the Philippines and Russia, and that was the outcome of the Cold War, which essentially went the way of Western countries.
He said Filipino soldiers had also been dragged into conflicts due to the Philippines’ longstanding close ties with Western allies.
“They also got Filipino soldiers in both Iraq and Vietnam and nothing happened. Then they went to expedition in Iraq and on an excuse of weapons of mass destruction, and there was none. And they [compelled] my country to contribute military forces,” Mr. Duterte said.
The Philippine president then cited the case of Angelo dela Cruz, a Filipino worker who was kidnapped in July 2004 by Iraqi insurgents fighting a US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein. His kidnappers had demanded the pullout of Philippine troops in Baghdad in exchange for his release.
The government of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo acceded to the demand, and Dela Cruz was released.
“From that time on, the Americans were really kind to us and I mean within the greater times… So there are the things that I see which is not a good area,” Mr. Duterte said.
Putin, for his part, expressed his hope for the diplomatic ties between Russia and the Philippines to flourish.
He congratulated Mr. Duterte on winning the elections on May 9, which he described as an auspicious date, as it fell on “a very pride day, a public holiday that marks the victory in the great patriotic war over the Nazi group.”
The Russian president credited Mr. Duterte for laying the groundwork for stronger ties with Russia.
“Well, you have been able to do a lot in a short period of time in terms of developing all round partnership between our countries and with respect to promoting greater trust and confidence between us,” he said.
“And it is my pleasure to have a chance to speak to you and your colleagues about developing our bilateral relationship,” Putin said.
After the meeting, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said the dialog with Putin was “very encouraging.”
“We had agreed to really foster stronger trade relationship with Russia. We acknowledge that in the past, somehow, even as we are celebrating long years, 70 or 40 years of diplomatic relations with Russia, our relationship has not really matured especially in the area of trade and investment and commercial relationship,” he said.
“But this time, we are going to push through for it,” Yasay said.
Explaining Mr. Duterte’s rants during the meeting, the country’s top diplomat said the Philippine president only “explained to President Putin the historical basis of our present situation, why it was necessary for us to really engage in an independent foreign policy.”
“Unless we are able to recognize and acknowledge our own mistakes, then there will be no way that we can move forward and I think the President conveyed the message quite clearly to the president of Russia,” Yasay said.
He said Putin invited Mr. Duterte to go to Russia.
“This will be preceded by a trip that I would have to undertake this December, and I look forward to even a more optimistic and closer and more detailed discussion of the President with the head of state of Russia,” Yasay said.
“That will mark the beginning of our entering into various agreements that will achieve our objective and goals,” he said. TVJ
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