• Russian overtures have been welcomed by Southeast Asia amid trade war uncertainties and disputes in the South China Sea
  • But even in embracing Moscow, the countries realise the limits of this courtship, for Russia’s primary relationship in the region is still with China
Russians poked fun at Philippine President

Rodrigo Duterte

’s ill-fitting suit and slightly askew tie when he met the comparatively dapper Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev last week. “Did he just leave the pub? Does he know what [state visit] protocol is?” a Russian journalist tweeted.

But for Moscow, Duterte’s five-day visit was no laughing matter. Duterte, 74, was the guest of honour at the Valdai Discussion Club – a global forum where Russian President

Vladimir Putin

airs his foreign policy ideas – in Sochi, taken on a tour of the Kremlin and awarded an honorary degree.

He and Putin agreed to boost defence and trade ties, and Duterte urged Russian firms to invest in railway and transport infrastructure as part of his “Build, Build, Build” programme to drive growth in the



qatar airways

Duterte’s trip – his second since taking office in 2016 – was just one of many recent meetings between Russian and Southeast Asian heads of state that have come amid a drive by Moscow to strengthen ties with its eastern neighbours.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is courting Southeast Asia. Photo: AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin is courting Southeast Asia. Photo: AP