A red line underlines seems to link the destinies of Libya and Ukraine . Two countries thousands of kilometers apart, yet linked by a common destiny of chaos and conflict. In February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the military operation in Donbass, thus starting the invasion of Ukraine.
A few months later, in May, the Libyan general Khalifa Haftar , former officer of Muammar Gaddafi who became a collaborator of the CIA after being captured in Chad, announced the military operation Karama.(“Dignity” in Arabic) which later resulted in the second Libyan civil war. Today, history seems to repeat itself: if the war in Ukraine is on the front pages of all the newspapers, Libya risks plunging into violence in general silence.
Two governments for one seat
In recent weeks we have come a step away from the armed clash between rival coalitions: on the one hand, the Government of National Unity (Gun) based in Tripoli of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah , recognized by the United Nations; on the other, the National Stability Government (GSN) led by the former Minister of the Interior, Fathi Bashagha , supported by General Haftar and the Tobruk House of Representatives. On Thursday 10 February, armed groups loyal to Bashagha arrived at the gates of Tripoli, but the Dabaiba militias blocked their way. Only the mediation carried out by the UN and the US convinced the attacking convoy to return to Misrata. Libyan sources reported to the Nova Agency that a face to face between the two rival premieres should have taken place in Turkey , but jumped at the last minute due to the opposition of Egypt and Dabaiba’s stubborn desire not to share power with rivals.
Three plans to resolve the crisis
Politically, Libya is already in chaos . There are at least three plans to get out of the crisis, all competing with each other. The outgoing premier proposes parliamentary elections by June and the end of all existing institutions (including the government). The Tobruk House of Representatives wants to install the new Bashagha government, draft a new constitutional proposal and presidential and parliamentary elections no earlier than 2023 . The United Nations wants to push the Parliament and the Council of State (the “Senate” based in Tripoli) to form a joint commission to draft a constitutional basis by March and go to the elections on the earliest available date. In this jumble of road maps, joint committees and parallel governments, the only certain thing is that the country is deeply divided and exposed to foreign interference.
After a month of war, the apprehension over the involvement of the Libyan dossier in the war in Ukraine has not disappeared. Moreover, Russia has many interests here and has invested not a little at a political and military level. In recent days, news of an agreement between the Kremlin and General Haftar for the sending to Ukraine of dozens of militiamen loyal to the strong man of Cyrenaica had returned from Kiev. But then no confirmation arrived. Probably the general has other things to think about than shortening his blanket of men to give a timid help to Russia. The real discourse on the intertwining of the Ukrainian crisis and the Libyan crisis concerns the role in the strict sense of Moscow in the North African country. Here the Kremlin has many Wagner men at its disposal, to be used as a tactical weapon.
Furthermore, it is necessary to understand which side Russia will be on at the moment and which side, given the new diplomatic situations, will consider it convenient to stay with Moscow. In theory, the Kremlin, between the two created governments, would support Bashaga. But the latter, like Ddeibah, condemned the attack on Ukraine. Both premieres therefore have a similar position on the Russian military operation. No one in Tripoli agrees to take a peremptory side with Moscow. There is no doubt, however, that losing Russian support for Bashaga altogether is not at all convenient. The impression is that the Ukrainian factor is shuffling several cards and the new balances will only be seen in a few weeks.
It is difficult not to think, when Moscow threatened Rome after the approval of the latest sanctions, of some connection with Italian interests in Libya. The Kremlin has always seen in our country an important European side due to the cultural and economic ties, even before political ones, between the two sides. For this reason, if on the one hand Moscow expected Italian sanctions due to the European choice to try this path, on the other, however, in Russia they did not expect such a harsh attitude from Rome. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio did not just condemn the action in Ukraine, but harshly addressed the Russian president with harsh words. The diplomacy of the Kremlin several times in the last month has come into sharp contrast with that of Italy.