On October 20, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was brutally killed. Over seven years, Libya has evolved from a stable, prosperous country into a territory of chaos and lawlessness. According to British media, Russia is strengthening its military presence in Libya and supplies weapons to the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Marshal Khalifa Haftar. According to the Russian Embassy in London, this information “has nothing to do with reality.” Dmitry Egorchenkov, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts, Russian Peoples’ Friendship University (PFUR), also doubts about the buildup of the Russian military presence in Libya.
In the hot phase of the Libyan conflict, the West had one main goal – to overthrow Gaddafi, who became an uncomfortable partner. The main motive that prompted the launch of the military operation against the Libyan Jamahiriya was the obvious desire of its permanent leader to reduce the influence of external forces in the Middle East, or at least to balance them. Moreover, by destroying the established state system of Libya, western countries hoped to ensure absolute competitive advantage for their businesses on the Libyan market, and also to guarantee access to hydrocarbon reserves exclusively for themselves.
At the time of the military operation, no one in Europe seemed to think seriously about the indirect consequences. But the American analysts took into account possible advantages of the destabilization of the North African “underbelly” of Europe. A few years later, when the Libyan campaign results began to affect European countries, it became clear that the destabilization of Libya was a strategic mistake. The Iraqi experience should have been a good lesson. But it was not. In fact, a single Libyan state ceased to exist. The danger of Libya’s disintegration is still impending, even along the borders of three historical regions – Cyrenaica (east), Tripolitania (west), and Fezzan (south). Thus, the old inter-tribal contradictions, which Gaddafi was able to curb several decades ago, came to the fore. It is unlikely that a dialogue between elites can be established without a strong and charismatic leader.
Only such a figure will also be able to make a significant blow to terrorists in Libya.
The situation in Libya was one of the important topics for discussion during the visit of Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi to Moscow on October 8. But since Syria remains the key issue for Moscow in the Middle East, the problems of Libya somewhat faded into the background. The Italian side is more interested in discussing the Libyan issue, especially in connection with the flow of refugees. Traditionally, Rome and Paris were the main partners of Tripoli in Europe. However, approaches to the Libyan topic in the two European capitals are significantly different. The Italian authorities are looking for all possible ways to reduce the migration burden, while the French accuse their colleagues of violating the principles of humanism. In these circumstances, Rome is forced to seek support of a third party to strengthen its approaches to resolve the Libyan crisis. Now that conservative forces that do not share the basic principles of European integration came to power in Italy, Moscow becomes one of the potential partners. However, one should not expect a breakthrough or a more active inclusion of the Russian side in the Libyan agenda.
On the official level, Moscow recognizes the government in Tripoli, has dialogue with it, develops ties. However, Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan National Army (LNA) leader, who controls the eastern part of the country, seems to gain greater sympathy from the Russian Federation. According to the British media, Russia is going to ensure a military presence in Libya. But such information is hardly true. Under current conditions, Russian diplomacy needs to maintain contacts with all healthy forces represented in the country and promote constructive political dialogue. In the situation of permanent instability it is very difficult to predict further dynamics of the Libyan internal conflict. Under certain circumstances, Khalifa Haftar can get full control over the Libyan state. However, at the moment only the British media can speak seriously about the deployment of Russian military bases in the east of Libya. Other foreign players follow the same accurate line of conduct.