Russia in Libya: War or Peace? | European Council on Foreign Relations
Far from presaging a Russian-Libyan alliance, however, the April Putin visit to A breakthrough in Russian-Libyan relations occurred in December Libya is increasingly a target for Russia's growing ambitions to influence also strengthens Russia's relationship with his main sponsor, Egypt. in the post-Arab Spring period on its economic relations with Russia. RussiaLs words, Lthe post-Qadhafi Russian-Libyan relationship. is yet another case.
The first option, is a soft diplomatic and political approach in which networks are maintained with all the key and influential Libyan stakeholders, where Russia encourages a more inclusive dialogue that may lead to a genuine accord and stabilisation of the country.
This in effect, would mean a new pro-Russia military dictator taking charge of Libya, where he can serve Russia's geopolitical, economic and energy interests in Libya and the wider region. Is France paving the way to Haftar's return in Libya?
In putting its full weight behind Haftar, Russia will be joining other countries, such as the UAE, Egypt and even France to a lesser extent.
Such a strategy is not guaranteed success, as there are still powerful forces at work within Libya who remain staunchly opposed to Haftar taking control. Moreover, this strategy will put Russia directly at odds with the interests of the US and key European countries including the UK, Italy and Germany who appear to be against the idea of a total Haftar hegemony, and who support a more inclusive political solution within a UN sponsored framework.
Haftar supporters are keen to emphasise that Russia is actually backing their man, and point to the regular high profile contacts and visits that are taking place.
In reality however, Russia has not delivered - until now - any substantial material support to Haftar in terms of advanced arms or military training. Russia has not delivered - until now - any substantial material support to Haftar in terms of advanced arms or military training Russia is still adhering to the embargo on arms sales to Libya that was imposed by the UN in Putin insists Russia will only consider supplying arms to Haftar, once the ban has been lifted.
Perhaps Russia has realised then, that a strategy of putting its full weight behind the year-old Haftar - a divisive figure in Libya with controversies and accusations such as war crimes against his name - is a very risky strategy. All the indications point to a Russia keeping its options open by maintaining contact with all the sides of the Libyan conflict.Russia: Russo-Franco relations ‘remain positive’ – French FM
In February of this year, following the second visit by Haftar to Moscow, Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, announced that they expected head of GNA Sarraj to visit Moscow soon, which he ended up doing while leading a large delegation.
Finally, Russia seeks the political dividends of being able to settle regional crises. To that end, it would be an enormous gamble if Russia relied exclusively on Haftar, whose ability to consolidate his control over the entire country is still very much in doubt. His rivals include not only the GNA but also Misrata-based rebels, and any uncertainty over his military predominance threatens Russian interests in Libya, particularly long-term arrangements like leases on bases or contracts.
In Syria, by contrast, Assad has been in power for years and benefits from a deeply divided opposition and large numbers of Iranian ground forces. Haftar does not possess these advantages, and Russia is averse to the kind of investment that delivering them to him would require.
Russia, therefore, has adopted a strategy of hedging its bets.
What is Russia's game in Libya?
Rather than back Haftar alone, Russia has also engaged the U. Despite its partnership with Haftar, Russia continues to formally endorse U. The Russian government has also received Sarraj in Moscow, albeit only once — Haftar visited Moscow for a third time this August — and with less fanfare.
He may not have sat down with President Vladimir Putin, but neither has Haftar. Increased Russian involvement in Libya is hardly universally popular.
Another possibility is that Russia may begin to partner more closely with Haftar on counter-terrorism issues, which could be used to build bridges with Trump, who has made defeating terrorism a centrepiece of his administration.
This is an option being pushed by Russian Defence Minister Shoygu but he needs a green light from the Kremlin which has not yet arrived. More likely, Putin will continue with his current ambiguous policy: What should Europe do?
If European actors like Italy, France and the UK want to avoid escalation, Russian diplomatic ambitions provide some leverage.
Russian decision makers expect to be involved in international discussions on Libya just as they are in the Syria negotiations and in other regional formats such as the Middle East Peace Process Quartet.
If Moscow is willing to play ball on this account, Europeans should remain watchful of its conduct within the new group and its impact on the behaviour of regional members UAE and Egypt. Against the backdrop of the Qatar crisis, Abu Dhabi sees Libya as the next potential battle against political Islam.