Emanuele Rossi

An official from the State Department corroborates to Agenzia Nova what the All Eyes On Wagner (Aeow) investigative project has published in recent days: Russia is using Libya as a logistical and geopolitical platform to support its presence in Africa, which is made up also of destabilization operations such as those underway in the Sahel.

The data provided by Aeow in recent days – 1,800 Russian Africa Corps men are currently deployed between Cyrenaica and Fezzan – confirm reconstructions that had also been anticipated months ago by Formiche.net . Dynamics also the result of what Karim Mezran, director of the North Africa Initiatives of the Atlantic Council, defined as “lack of attention” by the United States and the European Union.

“Since 2014, Russia has demonstrated its ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities to advance its interests in Libya. Not because Libya occupies a central place in Russia’s foreign and security policy. However, by expanding its influence in Libya, Moscow directly challenges Western powers and NATO on their southern flank, while establishing a strategic foothold for its activities on the African continent,” explains Virginie Collombier , scientific coordinator of the Mediterranean Platform , at the School of Government of Luiss Guido Carli.

“Although the specific objectives Russia is pursuing in Libya remain ambiguous, insights from the last decade suggest that it will likely seek to exploit regional chaos and the West’s relative apathy and loss of credibility to its advantage,” he adds in a conversation with Formiche.net .

According to the professor, it could be to support a new offensive by the Benghazi militia leader Khalifa Haftar , or to increase military activity in the Sahel, while “despite the ongoing diplomatic vacuum following the resignation of the United Nations special envoy, Abdoulaye Bathily , it seems unlikely that Russia will try to lead a new diplomatic process. Instead, Moscow is likely to focus on further consolidating its position in the region and, consequently, increasing its ability to pose challenges to Western powers.”

As regards Russian support for Haftar, which has been ongoing – in different more or less explicit forms – for almost a decade: have Western actors been wrong to consider him a valid interlocutor? “The approach of Western powers towards Haftar has been problematic for several reasons. In particular, by courting the Eastern general, they revealed the strong contradictions between the policies based on the values ​​they profess and their actual transactional approach to Libyan politics,” replies Collombier.

“This is exemplified by the French – he continues – who have officially stated that they support the political process led by the United Nations and simultaneously provided military assistance to the Libyan National Army ( Haftar’s militia, ed. ). More recently, Italy’s efforts to secure Haftar’s cooperation on immigration control in exchange for material support have highlighted the duplicity of Western actions (opposing a military solution to the conflict while providing direct support to one of the major warlords)”.

For the Luiss professor, this inconsistency has not gone unnoticed in Libya and elsewhere, significantly damaging the image and reputation of Western nations. “In contrast, Russia’s policies in Libya since 2014 have been characterized by coherence. Moscow’s strategy has focused on seizing emerging opportunities and using hard power to support Haftar and his armed forces. During the civil wars of 2014 and 2019, Russia exploited the increased instability, indecisiveness and ineffectiveness of Western powers. Moscow’s clear decision to support the faction that aligns with its vision of restoring power and order has been key to extending its control over strategic infrastructure, including military bases and oil installations, in the eastern and southern parts of the country ”.

To date, however, the expansion of Russia’s influence in Libya cannot be attributed exclusively to the exercise of hard power. “Yes, Moscow is increasingly effectively mobilizing its narrative against Western powers to influence the ‘ global majority ‘.

This narrative exposes the West’s duplicity and double standards, shedding light on the disastrous consequences of its policies in Libya, the Middle East and the Sahel. After more than a decade of violence and instability in the region, and against the backdrop of wars in Ukraine and Gaza, this discourse seems to resonate more deeply in local societies. The diminishing credibility of Western powers is further reinforced by the prevailing perception that the United States and European states have remained largely passive in the midst of crises, in stark contrast to Russia’s perceived military and diplomatic assertiveness.”


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