Russia’s Involvement in Libya: Taking Advantage of the EU’s Weakness

Written by | Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Russia is taking advantage of the divisions of the EU in Libya and the lack of interest of the United States, according to analysts and observers. The German Marshall Fund of the United States organized an event in Brussels on Wednesday (26 April) to discuss the situation in North Africa. The major conclusion of the event was the fact that the European Union lacks partners in Libya – the country that is responsible for the vast majority of the “launches” of migrant crossings through the Mediterranean.

The problems with keeping control of the Tamanhent air base 30 kilometers northeast of Sabha might evolve into the first major confrontation between forces linked to the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Khalifa Haftar is aligned with an eastern government that has rejected the GNA since it arrived in Tripoli. His forces have been continuously controlling most of Libya’s coastline extending also to the desert regions of Jufra and Sabha.

However, according to Pavel K. Baev, an Oslo-based senior fellow from the Centre on the United States and Europe, the Libyan account of the meeting between EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov has it that the Kremlin “denies the obvious” about the Russian presence and Moscow’s rising influence in the country and broader region.

Libya has a strategic importance for Russia. On the one hand, Vladimir Putin seeks to present Russia as a champion against the imported Arab Spring revolutions, but on the other, he also wants to win another strategic victory in the region following Russia’s role in the Syrian war. As to the EU, its response to the developments in the country has been continuous and many EU members have acted individually. While the Italians are mostly interested in the migration issues, the French have helped Khalifa Haftar while the British have officially supported GNA without actually intervening much.

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