16:50 GMT +314 November 2019
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    Russia Courting Philippines, Cambodia to Combat Drug Trafficking and Terrorism

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    Secretary of Russia's Security Council Nikolai Patrushev met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss joint efforts in tackling drug trafficking and terrorism. Political analyst Anton Tsvetov told Sputnik that these initiatives could help Russia improve its standing in Southeast Asia.

    Patrushev's visit to Cambodia and the Philippines "shows that Russia could be in demand in Southeast Asia if it takes the needs of regional powers into account," the analyst said. In such a case "Moscow will be able to find consumers for Russian goods and services with regard to security and will also manage to boost its political influence [in the region]."

    Tsvetov, an expert at the Center for Strategic Research, also said that Russia's initiatives could serve as an alternative to "traditional military presence."

    The analyst named terrorism as a topic "of critical importance" for the region, saying that the issue appears to be less relevant to Cambodia. Terrorism presents a major challenge for the Philippines since Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group which has pledged its allegiance to Daesh, is based in the southwestern part of the country.

    Shared security concerns have prompted Patrushev to offer both countries to take part in sharing intelligence on terror organizations under the International Counterterrorism Database, spearheaded by Moscow.

    Counternarcotics initiatives were also on the agenda of Patrushev's meetings.

    "Cambodia borders the Golden Triangle, one of the largest heroin-producing areas in the world. The Philippines is notorious for producing and consuming methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu). Duterte's anti-drugs campaign points to how significant this issue is for the nation. In addition, Chinese criminal organizations play a major part in exporting illegal drugs produced in both countries," the expert explained.

    Tsvetov also mentioned Russia's offer to train Duterte's security detail.

    "This is an important initiative taking into account political culture in the Philippines and the president’s tough policies," he said. "Both parties are in the process of finalizing documents on defense cooperation; most likely it will be a memorandum. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov will soon make a visit to the Philippines, while Duterte is expected to come to Moscow in April or May."

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    drug trafficking, counterterrorism, Rodrigo Duterte, Nikolai Patrushev, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Cambodia, Russia
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