"Historically, I have been identified with the Western world. It was good [while] it lasted," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in their first meeting in November last year on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.
Eager to diversify his country's external relations, the tough-talking Filipino leader recently embarked on a five-day trip to Moscow (May 22-26) to upgrade a historically anemic relationship. The trip was cut short as Duterte rushed back to deal with the siege by Islamic militants of the southern Philippine town of Marawi. But in many ways, it was an icebreaker state visit, both in bilateral terms and by reflecting a broader shift in Southeast Asia's regional strategic landscape.