It is customary for the European Union, the US administration, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and most of the international community to equate the Russian intervention with the Turkish intervention in Libya, and some Libyan parties do so as well.
They all ask the two parties involved (Russia and Turkey) or their forces to leave Libya. However, there are deep strategic differences/goals between the two countries’ intervention, the most important of which are:
• Russia does not object to the division of Libya. In fact, it may actually encourage and actively push for it. Russia aspires to control the port of Tobruk, the airport of Benina near Benghazi, and the military base of Al-Jafra. Russia does not mind if Libya becomes divided or even “crumbles into a thousand pieces” after they have achieved that. Turkey stands firmly against the division of Libya for economic and strategic reasons.
• The Russian presence on the shores of the Mediterranean threatens European national security, the national security of the west in general, and accordingly the national security of America in particular. The Turkish presence in the Mediterranean does not threaten the national security of Europe, the US, or the west in general. In addition, Turkey is a member of NATO, and therefore the competition between European countries and Turkey is an economic one, not a security one.
• The circumstances and timing of Russia’s intervention in Libya differ from the circumstances and timing of the Turkish intervention. The Turkish intervention saved Libya from being controlled by a new authoritarian regime attempting to plant a dictator in Libya. The Russian intervention does not mind the establishment of a new oppressive dictatorial regime in Libya.
• The Turkish intervention came through a legitimate, public and legal agreement, while the Russian intervention was born on the deck of a warship between an admiral in the Russian Navy and a Libyan military man who is/was not authorized to negotiate agreements, sign contracts, or create any memorandums of understanding/cooperation with foreign countries.
• The intention of obtaining economic interests in Libya or in the eastern Mediterranean is an ambition of almost all countries in the world including the United Arab Emirates, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Germany, Russia, Britain, Italy, Greece, Chad, Sudan, China and many others. Therefore, the argument of economic ambitions or interests applies to all, not only to Turkey.
• Cooperation between the United States of America in the matter of European national security or the security of the West in general, is possible, likely and reasonable between Turkey and the United States of America, while this matter is not possible between Russia and the US. The cooperation between America and Russia on the national security of Europe while Russia remains on the shores of the Mediterranean is considered an impossible task or goal to be achieved.
• Cooperation between America and Turkey in establishing a civil and democratic system in Libya is possible, while it cannot be done or agreed upon between Russia and the US due to Russia’s refusal to do so.
• The practices of Turkish forces in Libya do not include a single massacre or a single war crime or a crime against humanity. The practices of the Russia’s allies in Libya including the so-called National Army, Kaniyats, or the Russian mercenaries known as Wagner group, are full of massacres, mines, bombing of civilian neighborhoods and war crimes.
Including but not limited to: the mass graves of the city of Tarhunah, the Al-Abyar city massacre, the Murzuq city massacre, the Qanfouda massacre against women (teenage girls and children who did not carry weapons), the bombing of the refugee detention center in Tajoura, the massacre of the Military College in Tripoli, the war crimes in the city of Derna, the abduction and assassinations of women like Mrs. Seham Sergiwa, Mrs. Hanan Al-Barasy and many others, the public executions in full view of the world, the burning of bodies, the exhumation of graves, the bombing of health facilities and civilian neighborhoods, the looting of civilian homes who did not participate in the wars, and many other war crimes.
All the mentioned crimes are executed by and associated with the Russian forces and their mentioned allies in Libya.
I hope that the new U.S. administration, the European Union and the decision-makers in Libya will take into account the main differences between the Turkish and the Russian intervention in Libya.
Dealing with both interventions in the same way and at the same level will not serve the Libyan national interest nor will it establish stability in the region or long-term security for Libya or for European countries.
Fathi Al-Fadli, a Libyan writer