THE war between Ukraine and Russia seems to be slowly turning into an attrition warfare, some observers believe. This type of military strategy is an attempt to win a war by simply wearing down an enemy leading to its collapse due to the loss of men and equipment.
This is what is going on right now in Ukraine where Russia, led by its soldiers and President Vladimir Putin, are waging a relentless war of aggression against the Ukranians in its dream of once again establishing the so-called “historical Russia.”
Up to this moment, that dream of Russia, or more particularly that of President Putin, has been continually waylaid and ambushed by the Ukranians who are now heavily dependent on the West for arms and munitions. The people of Ukraine are being battered left and right and they are taking heavy casualties both with their soldiers and their civilian population. But against all odds and with help from their allies in the West, notably the United States and other countries that are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Ukraine has been able, until now, to repel further Russian advances into their territory.
This is why the title of this column is look to Ukraine and how it has come to rely on Western support and assistance in connection and in relation to what is now happening in the Philippines after China has once again flexed its military might and caused a military grade laser to be directed at a Philippine Navy ship BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403), which was on a resupply mission at the Ayungin Shoal. This latest incident has caused some personalities, notable among them retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who is an ardent advocate in protecting and preserving Philippine territorial and maritime sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, who are suggesting that the latest harassment by China against our naval personnel through the use of a military-grade laser is a ground for the country to invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States (US).
Some would say that calling for assistance and support from the Americans via the MDT is an over-reaction and will merely escalate the tension between the country and China instead of defusing it.
But here is what is probably more disturbing, China has for the past five years or more slowly expanded its military and maritime influence in the South China Sea by establishing its so-called nine-dash-line that practically encompasses the entirety of the West Philippine Sea and intrudes into the 200 mile economic zone of the country. It did not only lay claim and built naval and fishing ports along the various shoals and reefs that comprise the Spratly islands, it also began saturating the area with hundreds of fishing and maritime vessels ostensibly to protect its territory and sovereignty in that part of the globe.
In effect, what China has done, in violation of international rules and laws of the sea, deprived the Philippines of its 200 mile economic zone and the very reason why incidents continue to happen of our fishermen being shooed away from their traditional fishing grounds by Chinese naval vessels. In other words China is practically choking the maritime economic activities of the Philippines and nothing is being done about it except to file a diplomatic protest and with crossed fingers hoped that the Chinese government will take into consideration such predicament by the country.
But will China even listen or consider such a protest since its Foreign Ministry already said that their Coast Guard ship used handheld laser speed detector and handheld green light pointer merely to measure the distance and speed of the Philippine vessel and signal directions to ensure navigation safety. Of course we know that is a lot of bull**** since there are radars to take care of measuring distances between ships, but that is how China responds to any protest leveled against it.
But the laser incident is not exclusive to the country, in fact Australia has been the recipient of several incidents where China has used lasers in illuminating their aircraft while navigating in international waters. Now Australia is a military powerhouse in its own right and may not need any assistance or support from the US or its other allies at the moment.
However, the Philippine incident tells us that China, in using lasers against Philippine naval ships, might simply be a provocative act to further advance its interests in the South China Sea knowing that the country has no way of countering or even responding in kind to such actions.
So the suggestion to invoke the help of the US in these kinds of provocative actions by China via the MDT might just be what is needed to remind the latter that aggression of any kind against the Philippines, its territory and sovereignty, is not without resulting consequences unfavorable to it. Using the MDT as a tool is one way to deter China from further expanding its influence and aggressive intentions in the region and in the South China Sea.
This is not looking for a handout from the US but merely implementing a measure that is readily available as a deterrent force coming from a third party which has long been a partner of the country.