Surprise turn against Gaddafi is Russia’s latest westward step

Max Fisher writes:

Russia, a quasi-democracy and an imperial power that never quite gave up all of its colonial holdings, has dedicated much of its post-Soviet foreign policy to resisting everything that the NATO intervention in Libya stands for. It shrugs at human rights violators, abhors military intervention, enshrines the sovereign right of states to do whatever they want internally without fear of outside meddling, and above all objects to the West imposing its ideology on others. NATO itself, after all, is a military alliance constructed in opposition to the Soviet Union. But Russian President Dmitri Medvedev took a surprising break from Russian foreign policy precedent on Friday when, in the middle of a G8 summit in France, he declared that Libyan leader Muammar “Qaddafi has forfeited legitimacy” and that Russia plans “to help him go.”

For Libya, Russia’s call for Qaddafi to go is more than just symbolic. Russia abstained from the original UN Security Council resolution authorizing the no-fly zone, but was reportedly upset that NATO states stretched the resolution to launch an extended bombing campaign. Russia’s angry reaction, it was widely assumed, meant it might outright veto any future Security Council measures on Libya. But Medvedev’s recent statement makes clear that his government supports the implicit goal of the air strikes — regime change in Libya — and would not block further action toward that end. If Qaddafi had hoped that he might outlast the Security Council’s will to fight, he is clearly nowhere close. The window for him to leave the country peacefully remains open, but is clearly closing quickly.

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One thought on “Surprise turn against Gaddafi is Russia’s latest westward step

  1. Colm O' Toole

    Well that is one interpretation but I think a more nuanced and intelligent opinion of Russian policy re Libya and the UNSC resolution is found in Asia Times Online the other day by MK Bhadrakumar who used to be Indian ambassador to Russia during the end of the Cold War.

    Medvedev no doubt suffered a blow to his prestige from his decision to abstain during the voting on Libya in the United Nations Security Council, overruling the advice of highly professional Russian diplomats that Resolution 1973 was deeply flawed in many respects and was open to varying interpretations in the downstream. In retrospect, Medvedev gambled on behind-the-scene assurances held out by Western powers, and he lost face.

    The Russian strategic community is aghast that the “coalition of willing” under the banner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has since militarily intervened in Libya and is about to bring about regime change. Moscow’s protests have been coolly ignored by Western powers.

    It talks about how Russia may adjust to the reality that Gaddaffi will eventually fall by hedging its bets. But it also warns that after being lied to by the US and France regarding the No Fly Zone that the US-Russia “reset” in relations may be dead already. Of course it also mentions how Washington may have calculated the Medvedev will not be reelected and be adjusting to deal with a return of Putin.

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