October 12, 2018

From Syria to Libya

Russia Is Unleashing a New War in North Africa

Ivan Sichen

Another sharpening of the confrontation between Russia and the United States and Europe has witnessed the final failure of Moscow's plans to resume cooperation with the West on the basis of common interests, in particular, as part of the countering Islamic extremism in Syria. In view of this, the Russian leadership is seeking new opportunities for influence on its geopolitical adversaries. At this, the Kremlin's main goal remains weakening and undermining the unity of the United States, NATO and the EU, as well as strengthening its own positions in the international arena.

To achieve its goals, Moscow traditionally uses the most sensitive problems for Western countries, first of all those related to the consequences of armed conflicts in the areas of their interest. In this regard, the main direction of the Kremlin's actions is to provoke tensions in the regions of the Middle East, North Africa, the Western Balkans and the Southwest of the former USSR, which are directly adjacent to Europe and have become centers of a wide range of critical contradictions.

With this approach, Moscow is trying to create a belt of crisis zones, which should surround Europe from south and southeast, and become a buffer between NATO and Russia. It is on this that Moscow's efforts are focused on maintaining armed confrontation in Syria and in the East of Ukraine, persistent instability in the conflict zones in the territory of Moldova and Georgia, and eroding the situation in the Balkans (in particular, in Macedonia in order not to let it join NATO)

Lately have intensified Russia's actions to provoke an aggravation of the situation in Libya
Lately have intensified Russia's actions
to provoke an aggravation of the situation in Libya

Besides, lately have intensified Russia's actions to provoke an aggravation of the situation in Libya, where a permanent civil war is on. After the international coalition led by the United States interfered and M. Gaddafi's regime was overthrown in 2011, Libya has actually been divided between Western tribal groups with a center in Tripoli and the eastern ones — with the center in Benghazi.

Two Russian military bases have been deployed in the coastal cities of Tobruk and Benghazi
Two Russian military bases have been deployed in the coastal cities of Tobruk and Benghazi

All this gives Russia wide opportunities to use Libya in its interests. Especially as Moscow maintains close political, business and criminal ties with various Libyan clans existing since the days of the former USSR. For example, according to the report by the British intelligence to the country's leadership from October 8, 2018, Russia is actively supporting the leader of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) Kh. Haftar, who controls most of eastern Libya. In particular, the Russian side supplies LNA with heavy weapons and military equipment, and among other things has given it anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems.

Thus, Russia now can both, maintain its military presence in eastern Libya, and influence the development of the situation in the region. According to British intelligence, two Russian military bases have been deployed in the coastal cities of Tobruk and Benghazi under the cover of a private military company “Wagner”. Besides, in September–October this year units of Russian GRU and Airborne Forces were sent to eastern regions of Libya.

According to British military experts, within the framework of Russia's implementation of its strategic plans, Moscow's actions in Libya are aimed at “creating another Syria”, namely, a large source of instability near the EU's southern borders.

Moscow's actions in Libya are aimed at creating a large source of instability near the EU's borders
Moscow's actions in Libya are aimed at creating a large source of instability near the EU's borders

Resolving this issue will allow Russia: firstly, to put the EU, NATO and the United States before the need to respond to the new source of threats to European security. In turn, this will distract their attention and efforts and demand additional resources from them (including financial and military ones); secondly, to get additional levers of pressure on the leadership of the EU and individual European countries through the controlled deepening of the migration crisis in Europe. Thus, the expected outcome of the worsening situation in Libya will be the emergence of a new wave of refugees to countries of the European Union that are already overcrowded by migrants; thirdly, to weaken the EU and NATO by introducing additional disagreements into the relations between the European countries on the basis of their different attitude to both Libyan situation itself and the problems related with it. In 2011, a number of EU and NATO members, including Germany, categorically refused to interfere with the internal conflict in Libya. In case of another actualization of this issue, it can lead to even greater disagreements in Europe.

Proceeding from here, the Russian leadership hopes to undermine the unity of Western countries and international organizations in pursuing a coordinated strategy of pressure on Russia (first of all over the Ukrainian issue), and to encourage them to a full dialogue with Moscow. In particular, Italy has already invited V. Putin to attend an international conference on Libya scheduled for next month in Palermo.

Russia's interference in Libya has a number of economic goals, which include the control of oil fields
Russia's interference in Libya has a number of economic goals, which include
the control of oil fields

Besides, Russia's interference with the internal situation in Libya and growing military presence on its territory also has a number of economic goals, which include the control of oil fields in the eastern part of the country, getting wider opportunities for supplying Russian goods to the Libyan market and selling weapons to all sorts of militarized formations.

Also important for Moscow is the compensation of its moral losses as a result of the sole interference of the USA and its partners in the conflict in Libya in 2011 and the removal from power of the Russian ally M. Gaddafi. Against the background of Russia's efforts to strengthen its presence on the Libyan territory, Russian mass media are launching an information campaign to declare the “failure of Western policy in Libya”. At the same time, they declare “Russia's victory in Syria” and “strengthening of Russian positions in the region”.

 

In general, the RF's actions in Libya are fully consistent with Russia's policy of realization of its external interests, which is tough and tedious and allows the use of all possible methods to achieve its goals. In particular, this concerns provoking of armed conflicts in different regions of the world, with the involvement of Russian troops. At this, Moscow is not stopped by mass casualties among the civilian population, or the losses among Russian military. The above-mentioned circumstances confirm the futility of hopes for the achievement of any reasonable compromise with Russia, including on the settlement of the situation around Ukraine.


 

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