Is General Hifter Becoming Putin’s Man in Libya?
Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s sudden visit to Moscow says less about impending arms deals than about Russia’s long term strategy in Libya and the region.
When Gen. Khalifa Hifter arrived in Moscow on an unannounced visit in late June, experts interpreted it as yet another attempt to secure an arms-transfer deal with the Kremlin. However, the Russian ambassador to Libya was quick to dismiss the speculation. “Unless the Security Council lifts or at least eases the embargo, there can be no talk of Russian weapons deliveries to Libya,” Ambassador Ivan Molotov told Russian journalists.
Russia may have long-range goals for Libya — to be an important player in North Africa.
The Russian ambassador to Libya probably put it best when he said, “It is not Libya’s opposing sides but the whole of Libya that seeks Russia’s support. They understand that without us it would be very difficult to overcome the existing crisis. It is therefore quite natural that different parties want to meet with us and ask us for moral and material support.”
Molotov’s statement gives a hint about the Kremlin’s intentions in the region: For it, Libya is not the end game but a tool to help it stay relevant in Middle Eastern affairs. Contributing to the resolution of the political crisis in Libya, one that is increasingly becoming a contributing factor to the spread of the Islamic State in this country, may benefit Russia’s image of a champion in the global fight against terrorism and put it on par with the United States in this region.
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