The deepening crisis in the Philippines has thrust the Soviet Union into a diplomatic quandary, with the Kremlin apparently hoping to portray the events as an example of U.S. interventionist policies while maintaining friendly ties with the Manila government and keeping the Philippine Communist movement at arm's length.
Meanwhile, as the Soviets seem to tilt toward the government of President Ferdinand Marcos, in the face of evidence that his reelection over opposition candidate Corazon Aquino on Feb. 7 was tainted by fraud, the ranking Philippine representative here has signaled that he is likely to declare for Aquino.
The Soviet stance was underscored last Wednesday when the new Soviet ambassador to Manila, presenting his credentials at Malacanang Palace, congratulated Marcos on his reelection. The Soviet was the first and only major foreign envoy to acknowledge a Marcos victory.
According to one well-informed diplomatic source here, the Soviets may have been forced by the timing of the Feb. 19 meeting, which was set by Marcos. Since then, the Soviet Foreign Ministry has refrained from sending any official note on the electoral victory.
Since diplomatic ties were established in 1976, Moscow and Manila have maintained normal relations, despite a wide ideological gulf. Although the Communist Party is outlawed in the Philippines, Marcos made an effort to broaden his ties to the socialist world, in part to use them as a lever in his relations with Washington.
His wife Imelda has traveled to Moscow seven times, the last time in October 1985. She used the occasion to warn the United States against intervening in internal Philippine affairs. "She played right into their argument, giving them fresh ammunition to heap scorn on the Americans," said one diplomat.
According to some western diplomats here, the Soviets tolerated Marcos because his autocratic policies only helped strengthen the local Communist movement.
Although Philippine Communists are mostly Maoists, relations with Moscow have improved during the past year. A visit here last May by the party's general sectretary was given prominence in the Soviet press, and a Philippine party representative is here this week for the 27th Soviet Communist Party congress.
The Soviets, meanwhile, have watched as Marcos' authority has unraveled steadily during the current crisis. Today, Manila's representative in Moscow said he would "solidly declare" for a provisional government as soon as one is named to take Marcos' place.
"I would solidly declare myself because it was the overwhelming will of the people of the Philippines that Mrs. Aquino and Mr. [Salvador] Laurel be elected. Unfortunately, through the manipulations of Mr. Marcos, they were robbed of their victory," said Romeo Fernandez, who since 1984 has been the Philippine charge d'affaires here.
The Soviet Union's cautious handling of the Philippine crisis is a result of both an unusual relationship with the Marcos government and an attempt to hold up the Philippines as another example of U.S. interventionist politics, western diplomats here said.
Some analysts trace Moscow's cool view of Aquino to a perception that she would be closer to Washington than Marcos on some issues.