News / Africa

Russian Envoy Tries to Mediate Libya Civil War

Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov (2009 file photo)
Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov (2009 file photo)
James Brooke

An envoy of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets Tuesday in Benghazi with leaders of Libya’s opposition.

But the envoy, Mikhail Margelov, is not expected to travel onward to the Libyan capital, Tripoli. In fact, foreign policy analysts in Moscow are not predicting much success for the Russian mediation effort in Libya’s civil war.

Fyodor Lyukanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, says, “Russia does not have so much to offer Libya. Gadhafi is not an exclusive partner of Russia. Russia has not much leverage on him, and I would even guess that Colonel Gadhafi maybe would prefer not Russian, but African mediation.”

Lyukanov says that Libya’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, now sees Russia as taking the side of NATO in the conflict. After abstaining in the United Nations vote in March authorizing NATO to enforce a no-fly zone, Russia basically sat on the fence during the first two months of NATO’s military action.

Then, 10 days ago, at the recent Group of Eight summit in France, President Medvedev had a long talk with U.S. President Barack Obama about Libya.  Emerging from the meeting, the Russian president said he had agreed to try to mediate, but he also told reporters, “Gadhafi’s regime has lost its legitimacy - he has to go.”

After that comment, Libyan officials in Tripoli started to say that Russia was now aligning itself with Western powers in their attempt to unseat Mr. Gadhafi.  As a result, the Russian envoy has not won permission to travel to Tripoli.

Finding new home for Gadhafi

Margelov has said his job is to find a new home for the Libyan leader, mentioning Qatar and Saudi Arabia as countries that might offer asylum. The Russian envoy has said that Western officials have talked about different possibilities for the Libyan leader - “from a quiet life as a simple Bedouin in the Libyan desert” to becoming a defendant at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Evgeniy Satanovsky, president of Moscow’s Near Eastern Study Institute, predicted that Mr. Gadhafi will cling to power as long as possible. He compared the Libyan leader to dictators like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who fled his country Sunday after being wounded by a rebel attack on his palace.

“People like Saddam Hussein, or President Saleh, he want power to the last second," said Satanovsky. "He want to be on the top as the leader of his country. But Russia has a chance.”

Russia: Striving for neutrality

While Libyan officials say that Russia now sides with NATO, Russian officials have strived to stay neutral. Russian officials worried openly about the fate of $4 billion in arms contracts with the Gadhafi government.

Early in the campaign, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin compared the European attack on Tripoli to “a medieval call to the Crusades.”

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that NATO attacks were “either consciously or unconsciously sliding towards a land operation."

The comments were triggered by NATO’s first use on Saturday of attack helicopters inside Libya. Previously, NATO relied on attack jets generally flying above 4,500 meters.

In reaction, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Sunday that NATO is moving beyond its mandate to control Libya’s airspace.  He said, “We think it clearly takes one side of the conflict."

Russia split over Libya?

Russia’s seeming split over Libya reflects a wider, conservative approach to the street revolutions generally known as "the Arab Spring."

Satanovsky says the “so-called Arab Spring is not a spring. It opened the gates to power for radical islamists.”

Russia’s caution toward revolution comes from having experienced two major revolutions in the 20th century - the communist uprising in 1917 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“Experience how quickly euphoria about revolution disappears and will be replaced by completely different reality," said Yukanov. "This is the Russian experience.”

With this deep skepticism of revolution prevailing in Moscow, some analysts there see President Medvedev’s move to break with Mr. Gadhafi as a victory for President Obama’s policy of engaging Russia - a policy known as the "reset."

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs