Russia concerned over Libya

The recent developments in Libya have triggered a lot of speculation across the political spectrum in Russia with political and media circles alike offering wide-ranging opinions on Libya in recent weeks.

NATO air strikes, the civil war in Libya and the collapse of the country's state system are seen as the demise of Libya as a state. According to recent surveys, up to 80 percent of Russians condemn air strikes against Libya. Sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky comments:

"Russian attitudes towards NATO are mostly negative, the expert says, which is fully in line with the global trend. While revolution and mass protests received widespread support in Arab countries, NATO's intervention caused an outcry from the public."

In Russia, NATO's campaign against Libya was immediately compared to the bombardments of Yugoslavia and Iraq and the developments in Afghanistan. Russian bloggers described the Libyan campaign as barbaric and "a gang shootout in the style of Wild West". Russians oppose the use of force and consider the West's intervention an overt aggression, particularly since UN Security Council Resolution 1973 did not authorize coalition forces to bomb cities or take part in ground operations.

The Transitional National Council, which sees itself as the only legitimate body in Libya, is split and is highly unlikely to normalize the situation. Political analysts in Russia say that the civil war in Libya will go on and years will pass before the country sees peace, stability or effective leaders. While it tacitly watches coalition forces distribute Libyan oil and establish control over oil wells and export terminals, the Transitional Council says that Russia, along with China and Brazil, might face problems with energy contracts for "political reasons".

From the very start, coalition countries made it no secret that they were aiming at Libyan oil reserves and at establishing spheres of influence in the region, bypassing the UN. Libya is seen as a valuable trophy, and it's up to those who dropped bombs on it to distribute the trophies. For this reason, the UN is not something to reckon with. A statement to this effect came a few days ago in the run-up to an international conference on Libya in Paris. Russia was not invited. The Russian Foreign Ministry made it clear that the key role belongs to the UN and the UN Security Council.

Russia didn't take part in the military campaign against Libya. Neither did China, Germany, South Africa or Brazil. Moscow didn't stay indifferent either: it didn't veto Resolution 1973 and it joined sanctions against Libya. In this respect, any attempts from NATO to exclude Russia and the above countries from discussions on Libya are shortsighted, Azhdar Kurtov of the Russian Strategic Research Institute says:

"NATO's statements of the past two years suggest an attempt to replace the UN. By crushing Gaddafi, even though a complete victory is nowhere in sight, NATO is trying to reap the fruits of victory bypassing other countries and the UN Security Council, whose permanent members include Russia and China. This is why Russia was not invited to join the conference of so-called "Libya friends" in Paris."

Russia warns all parties involved that post-war restoration of Libya should proceed under the aegis of the UN Security Council. Oriental expert Stanislav Tarasov is sure that the West will have to honor Russia's position eventually:

"Russia maintains the status of a powerful regional power with its own interests in the region. Its position and tactics are explicit enough. Russia is among the leading global powers and the world's top players will achieve nothing without Russia. Contact groups, or "Libya friends" groups will be useless without Russia."

While keen on making the UN a key figure in a Libyan settlement, Moscow is helping NATO to see the deadlock it has driven itself into and to find a way out of it.

[Source: The Voice of Russia, Moscow, 29Aug11]

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