Russia's pragmatic move expands diplomatic space

14:58, June 09, 2011      

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Russia's recent "new stance" on the Libya issue has attracted particular attention. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on behalf of Russia during the G8 summit that Muammar Gaddafi's regime has lost its legitimacy and the Libyan leader must leave his post. Gaddafi's move to step down will be in the interests of both Libya and the Libyan people.

Russia's official attitude could be considered "clearly ambiguous" since Libya's situation deteriorated in February 2011. The "clear attitude" means that the Russian government has expounded its views and adopted a clear attitude on this issue. Russia has been blaming Gaddafi for failing to fulfill his obligations of "protecting his citizens" and performing U.N. Security Council resolutions, which, as it has reiterated, were the reasons why Russia supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 and did not veto the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 on establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. The "ambiguous attitude" means that Russia has criticized both sides and is impartial to every side.

Russia supposes that the West's exercise of military power is to "use a kind of mistake to repair another kind of mistake" and the West's military intervention has abused the UN Security Council resolutions. It has warned that it will not agree on any new resolutions on expanding military operation and has stressed that the Libya issue can only be resolved by Libyan people. Medvedev said once again in Rome on June 2, "Russia opposes the decision of NATO to prolong its military operation in Libya."

With further changes in the situation, Russia, who originally only stood by criticizing, began to intervene. At first, Russia refused to act as the middleman, but after mid-May, it invited the Libyan government and rebel representatives to the country for negotiations. Although the diplomatic efforts did not yield results, all related parties welcomed Russia's mediation as they had hoped someone would come out and mediate the deadlocked Libyan situation. At that time, Russia's new attitude toward the Libyan issue had emerged as it tried to find out a Post-Gaddafi political road. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated clearly on May 24 that Russia recognized the rebel-led National Transition Council as a legitimate negotiator on Libya's future.

The change of its stance is due to its assessment on the situation. Russia currently believes that Gaddafi, beset with difficulties both in internal and external affairs, will confront an ever increasing number difficulties and disadvantages. He will not only fail to keep on ruling Libya effectively but will become the biggest "barrier" for solving the country's problems. And now each party intends to focus their attention on revolting against Gaddafi. As long as Gaddafi continues to seize power, the war will not end, and as the Libyan war continues, the whole region cannot be stable and the impact will likely to influence other countries. The longer such a situation lasts, the more uncertain factors will emerge. Therefore, it is more likely that the unstable power and negative impact will get the upper hand. Thus based on such assessment and its original disapproval of Gaddafi's approach to deal with domestic contradictions, Moscow concluded that removing Gaddafi to build a new power structure may be the "ideal" choice, even if it is for the basic goal of ceasing fire and restoring peace in Libya.

It has become much easier for Russia to make decisions in this regard since Russia finds it not worthwhile to sacrifice its relations with the Western world simply because of Gaddafi. Meanwhile, Russia is establishing contact with the rebels to secure its interests in the post-Gaddafi Libya.

Russia's flexible and pragmatic policy toward Libya has paid off. During the G8 summit in Deauville, other G8 member states all promised to push through Russia’s accession to the WTO in 2011. France finally agreed to sell amphibious assault ships to Russia, and Western leaders including Barrack Obama recognized Russia’s role as a mediator in the Libyan conflict. This has all made Russia a busy player in the international arena.

Russian President's Special Representative for Libya Mikhail Margelov recently went to Tripoli, the capital of Libya, and Benghazi to mediate between the two sides in Libya's civil war, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema, acting chairman of the African Union, arrived in Moscow on June 6. Facing the complex situation, Russia has adopting a diplomatic logic that is not so simple: opposing one side is not equal to recognizing the other side and vice versa.

By Jiang Yi, translated by People's Daily Online
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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