There are several myths about Soviet/Russian involvement in Libya in particular and the Mediterranean in general. Unfortunately, such “political stories” are firmly rooted in the traditions of the Cold War and the post-Soviet period of geopolitical fog.
The first myth perpetuated in all the analytical efforts is that Gaddafi was a staunch ally to the Kremlin. This misreading of the Colonel has been the reason for many failures in describing the past and the present of Russia’s moves in Libya and beyond. Gaddafi was a dedicated enemy of everything communist, ready to bring the Russian connection into play as a proverbial “stick” in his troubled relations with the Americans. In doing so, he was far from original but rather following in the footsteps of many Middle Eastern politicians who blackmailed the West with the threat of “going Soviet.”
The second myth is that Moscow has historically been trying to convert North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean into the “main proletarian confession.” This particular narrative dates back to the early decades following the 1917 revolution when the imagination of a few idealistic amateurs conceived the “world revolution.” Fortunately for the Soviet Union, this romantic dream died long before World War 2; and unfortunately for the hypothetical West, the attitude remained unchanged.
The third myth is that Russia has no business to be anywhere outside of its borders. In fact, this is an attitude spread by Washington among its allies in Europe through NATO doctrines rather than a myth. The argument typically goes, “We are here because we are good” and “We are good because we say so”, while they should not be here “because they are bad” and “they are bad because we say so.” The keywords here are “because we say so.”
Now, these are the myths. What could be said of the reality?
Myths Turned Historical Reality
At the outset, Russia cast a close look at the Mediterranean during the time of Catherine the Great. At that time, the understanding was clear. If we want to a) secure the Southern border and b) trade with the world with no restrictions, we had to have access to the warm high seas. For that to happen, Moscow had to project power. Those were the days when power projection was the key to trade success. Not that much has changed.
Paul the First went a little further as he tried to establish Russia’s naval base in Malta. An old trick got in his way, though, he was stopped by repeated blows to his head.
However, the idea was quite clear. The Mediterranean and North Africa were definitely worthy of attention. The Soviet leadership was nothing if not excellent students of history, something that soon resulted in particular attention to the area. For the most part, all the Soviet Mideastern discourse could not and should not be taken separate from the Eastern Mediterranean track. Naturally, Libya was ideally positioned for the effort to project political, military and ideological power to the Eastern Mediterranean. Ideology should receive rapt attention as well. It has always been in the offering, still being there albeit under the disguise of “traditional values”. It is worth stressing that this new package for the old adage enjoys undisputed success with the traditionalist elites in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Moscow–Tripoli relations were always anything but smooth. If not for the American posture towards Gaddafi, one might say Moscow would have failed to get inside the Jamahiriya at all. Washington somehow served the cards in favor of the Kremlin, though, and Gaddafi signed a considerable package with Russia in the early 1970s. However, even this package came with a pinch of salt when Russian specialists and advisors were for months not allowed to attend their workplaces in the military units after their arrival to Libya. It was an enigma at the time, but it then became more than clear that Gaddafi kept the door open for a setback in the relations with Moscow if the situation with the West (meaning the U.S.) changed to the positive.
Something like that happened during 2004–2006. By time the Soviet Union was long gone, Gaddafi made loud concessions, and Washington started afresh with Tripoli. Immediately, Gaddafi’s contractual policies shifted in favor of the Western alternatives, like signing tremendous contracts with Italy. That was a clear sign of the times, coupled with the same old “game of options”. When several meetings between Gaddafi and the new Russian leaders took place and a few agreements were signed, this served as source of optimism in the Kremlin. This came at a time when Russia started reassessing its position in the MENA region and was in the process of defining who is who vis à vis Moscow’s newly-found ambitions. The new agreements signed between Moscow and Tripoli were perceived in Russia as a manifestation of the newly-found rapport with the rich North African country. Probably, this period, more than any time else, gave rise to the speculations about the “eternal friendship” between Gaddafi and Russia.
However, the enthusiasm was waning as it became increasingly evident that Gaddafi was more interested in the new acceptance from the United States and that Libya transited from the enfant terrible of global politics to the country welcomed in the diplomatic chambers of Europe and America. Evidently, by the time of the Security Council resolution of 2011 on Libya, Moscow’s political elite became disinterested in Libya as a possible partner, which was the reason why Russia abstained from its right of veto.
Against this backdrop, Russia entered the years 2014–2015, heralding the country’s expanded presence in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Facing Today’s World
It has virtually become an article of faith that Russia has become overly aggressive in its foreign policy from that time on, creating a vacuum around itself and fostering many hostile elements in the West with crippling sanctions from the former “partners” being “displeased” by Russia’s modus operandi. This is one way of looking at the issue. Let’s try to adopt a different approach, one closer to Moscow’s optics.
It all started in Ukraine and with the Crimea. After the 2013 Euromaidan and the ousting of President Yanukovitsh, there was a well-founded apprehension about Sevastopol’s fate and the ill-disguised intentions of the new political elite in Kiev to turn this naval base over to NATO. Anyone with some experience in international politics could deduce this was a huge red line for Russia. With Sevastopol, Russia could lose its ability to operate in the Mediterranean and project its power to the Middle East. This aspect is strangely absent in the Western (and sometimes Eastern) discourse. Or, maybe, this is not that strange.
This fact was exacerbated by the intense anti-Russian campaign in the former Soviet Republics on the Western border. It genuinely hurt Russian feelings. We all remember the unbelievable amount of money Russia, then part of the Soviet Union, invested in these same republics, and this “post-factum animosity” went against all beliefs of the Russian people. This implies reactions among ordinary citizens to whom political elites in Moscow had to really pay attention.
The Yugoslavia crisis also raised another principal issue: when “they” do it, it has to be the struggle for democracy as half of Europe could be bombed amid happy dancing around the “equality campfire;” when “we” do it, they call it transgression, annexation and you name what. Unjust. Definitely unjust. And what would you call denying Russia its right of influence and its freedom of presence in the regions which Moscow considers its areas of interest while hailing the U.S. for doing the same? Discrimination. Definitely, discrimination.
Hence, the go-alone (China is out of account here) trajectory in the Middle East and beyond as well as the genuine belief that “our cause is just and we will prevail.” Actually, this is not so different from the American discourse. The scale of confrontation between the two countries may well come as the result of this similarity.
A lot is said about the “ring of enemies” and the “motherland under siege” narrative, which allegedly mirrors the Kremlin’s international policies and influences its Middle Eastern discourse. This is a dangerous misreading of the situation. This is an American narrative rather than a Kremlin narrative. As any counterproductive policy, it leads to Moscow exploiting this pressure and having a good response from the grassroots level. All attempts at depicting it otherwise are dangerous delusions that result in mistakes when formulating strategies.
As far as the 140 million people living in Russia are concerned, we have to account for a next-to-total support of the Kremlin’s political course. This is what matters to decision-makers. The situation may gradually be changing now, but the inertia is still strong.
A Change of Mind
Now, if we put all this together as the basis for our analytical attempt, we might work out a better understanding of Russia’s foreign policy approach to Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, which is a crucial part of the nation’s Southern track.
As mentioned before, Russia has lost interest in Libya for practical reasons. For some time, the country was considered a Western fiasco; and as such, it was apodictically left for the West to deal with. This is especially true for the period since 2015, when Syria has stolen all the available effort. The Syrian file left a lot of room for speculation. Many “specialists” posited that Russia entered Syria to make itself indispensable as a party to the regional mediation process and, which is much more exotic, to alleviate the Crimea fallout. Perhaps, nothing could be farther from the truth. Reasons for such argumentation are clear as there was a need to project the success of the U.S. sanctions policies and to show to the civilized world that the courageous stance of Washington and its allies against the Russian threat was a success. The result of this narrative was more than misleading. In fact, the Russian political elite, mainly oriented towards domestic reactions (remember the support for the PLO in the 1970s), maintained that Moscow was not at all intimidated by Western activism. Contrary to this original plan, Moscow successfully used the anti-Russian campaign to its own ends, openly accusing former “partners” of inadequacy.
The decision to engage in the Syrian file was based on several factors, and none of them was truly perceived by the West. The first and the most important was terrorism. For Russia, Syria was too close to the borders for comfort to allow terrorist activities to go unimpeded. It was imperative not just to put an end to groups like ISIS and JN but to eliminate the most active terrorists physically so that they would not be able to return to their homeland. Following the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States was not trusted to do good. No doubt, the second reason was the support of the regime, and this is not to mean in in the sense “we like Assad, let him stay.” This was rooted in discouraging the notion of forceful replacement of political rulers per se. The old adage stipulating “what was done by force would be undone by a greater force” was at the forefront of the reasoning. The third factor has, of course, to account for the military presence in the Mediterranean. To lose naval facilities that facilitate operations in the area was absolutely unacceptable, especially since the reasoning seemed sound—if the Americans have the right, then we also have the right. Hard to argue, isn’t it? Then, there was also the display of loyalty to the long-time ally and the necessity of defending Orthodox Christians, bearing in mind that the discourse of Orthodoxy has been a significant part of the domestic political narrative.
However, the Syrian engagement served as a catalyst for the change of status towards Libya.
During the Syrian crisis and as a result of military successes (with occasional fiascos, for sure), the outlook on the Middle Eastern paradigm became more and more “militarized” in the sense that it started to look as though we could achieve by force more than we would achieve by word “in this neck of the woods”. As a result, the military started replacing diplomats in a lot of venues. The argument was clear – there is still a lot of terrorist activity, so we need to be proactive.
With the tangible results in Syria, the Libyan option started to look more and more doable. However, there still was reluctance to engage on the state level. The position of the Kremlin was clear. As we do not know what will come as a result of the Libyan kaleidoscope, we will hedge our risks by talking to everybody without engaging on the part of anybody. If there were a private initiative, we would not interfere. This is plausible deniability which turned out to be not so convincing in the fall of 2019 as world news agencies readily tied the so-called Wagner to the Russian government. Still, it is not a state endeavor and should not be considered as such. At the end, it is definitely private and not very impressive.
During the initial period of official engagement in Syria and the unofficial one in Libya, Russia faced several challenges that it learned to cope with, except for that of Turkey. Ankara became active in the Middle East some time ago, recently arriving in Eastern Mediterranean. This was probably something new for the “front-line” Mediterranean countries of Europe, but not for Russia. Russia had to deal with Turkey through all its recorded history. Nothing changed in principle. It is still the interests of one country and the interests of the other. However, the context is different. Turkey remains a NATO member and, as such, enjoys the support of other member-states. On the other hand, both countries enjoy certain levels of economic cooperation and are reluctant to sacrifice it, at least for now. There are even “optimistic” voices in Russia saying that Turkey is ready to leave NATO and cut relations with the U.S. to foster a new alliance with Russia. This is an interesting albeit unrealistic opinion.
In reality, the two countries have been dancing in close military proximity in Syria, now having to adjust to each other yet again over the frontline in Libya. Both countries have an impact on the U.S. involvement, both negatively, as in Syria (playing hoax on the Kurds and seeding discord in the tribal structure of the Levant), as well as positively, as in Libya (facilitating a new possible track to solution, however improbable it may look).
Still, Moscow appears to take a very cautious approach to the GNU, noting the new circumstances amid which Haftar finds himself. The closeness of Abdelhamid Dbeiba to Ankara is not a secret, while Haftar’s reluctance to cede his domain to anybody is also known. It seems Moscow is waiting for the final outcome, hardly being optimistic of the election’s prospects. If there are no elections, then the unity of the country is questionable and who is to say where the balance goes? The remark of Vershinin pronounced on the margins of the Berlin 2.0 that evacuation of foreign fighters from Libya should be approached cautiously, is telling.
Moscow’s approach to Eastern Mediterranean is based on the new contextual reality. Mediterranean seems to be in transit from a Eurocentric to a Mideastern character. Recently, the leading Gulf nations have shown their keen interest in what is happening in the region. From Moscow’s perspective, this means that the “liberal democratic” construct of the Mediterranean will increasingly be subjected to the stress-test by the “desert warrior” political routine. In this context, Russia feels more comfortable as a historically proven all-road political vehicle, capable of navigating traditional waters of no-man’s land of the Middle East. It might be too optimistic but definitely not without merit. The region is changing, and Russia that replaced the shackles of the socialist ideology of the past with the potent weapon of traditional values feels itself capable of not only participating in this change but also of driving it.
From our partner RIAC
- The Palestine Liberation Organization was considered a terrorist group, but for the Soviet people, they were freedom fighters worthy of international support. This legitimized the Kremlin’s decision to approach Arafat. A similar thing is taking place now.
- Mind NATO’s position towards Turkish incursions into the Syrian territory in 2012 and 2013, where Rasmussen depicted Turkey as a suffering party.
Why is Sweden still on standby to join NATO ?
Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine undermines European security order, specifically the Nordic states. Growing security threats galvanised Sweden and Finland, historically nonaligned states to join NATO. Strong Defensive alliance is need of hour for both states. Therefore Finland and Sweden handed over their NATO applications on May 18 2022. Finland’s membership gets ratifies by member states of NATO where Sweden still waits in queue for its accession. This article will explore the reasons for putting Sweden on Stand-by at this belligerent stage.
Sweden had an official non alignment policy. Sweden’s non-alignment policy refers to its stance of neutrality in international conflicts and its refusal to align itself with any military alliance. The policy was officially adopted in 1953, during the Cold War, and has been a cornerstone of Swedish foreign policy ever since. Under this policy, Sweden has refused to join military alliances such as NATO, although it has cooperated with NATO on some issues. Instead, Sweden has sought to maintain good relations with all countries and to act as a mediator in international conflicts. Sweden’s non-alignment policy has allowed it to maintain a high degree of independence in its foreign policy, and has helped to establish the country’s reputation as a neutral and peaceful nation. It has also enabled Sweden to pursue an active role in international diplomacy and conflict resolution.
But World political dynamics took a swift shift after Russia Ukraine war which increased security threat from Russian side towards. To strengthen itself militarily and on mass demand from nation Sweden ends 200 years of militarily neutrality and seeks to join NATO in May 2022.
Finland and Sweden applied for membership together and Finland gets accession on April 4 2023, becoming 31stmember of NATO. Where Sweden’s path to NATO remains blocked by Turkey and Hungary. Turkey has dragged its heel over Sweden claiming that Sweden doesn’t take turkey’s security concerns seriously. Moreover, Turkey also holds Stockholm responsible for harbouring militant group, The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra Gel, is a militant Marxist-Leninist separatist group, exercising armed insurgency against Turkey for years. On Contrary, Sweden denies these allegations.
Moreover, in recent weeks Turkey Objected on certain hate crimes in Stockholm. Most condemned incident was burning of Holy Quran near Turkish embassy in Sweden. This blasphemous act was done by Far-right politician and anti-Islam provocateur Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish national, with a reputation for carrying out similar acts. On this heinous incident, Turkish President Erdoğan responded,
Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their Nato membership,” Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,
Another incident which angered Turkey was hanged effigy of Erdoğan in protests across Sweden, which further fuelled the contention between Ankara and Stockholm. These events definitely deepened standoff with Turkey over Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
By providing strong military alliance NATO also expects a high economic and military contributions from its member states. As a NATO member, Sweden will be expected to provide staff to NATO’s political and military structures. Moreover, Sweden will be expected to contribute approximately SEK 600–700 million per year to NATO’s common budget. It is also the stated target that the organisation’s members commit a minimum of 2 per cent of GDP to defence spending, in accordance with NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge that was adopted at NATO’s Wales Summit in 2014. Sweden continues to invest in defence and will reach NATO’s current level of 2 per cent of GDP by 2026. NATO members also aim to allocate at least 20 per cent of defence spending for defence material and research and development.
Sweden’s accession to NATO can be worthwhile for NATO itself Because Sweden is important to NATO’S defence of Baltics. Swedish cooperation with the Alliance would make protecting the Baltics easier and thereby strengthen NATO’s security guarantee to its member countries. That, in turn, would improve NATO’s ability to deter Russian aggression in the region.
Analysts suggest that hurdles in Sweden’s path to Nato could have been lifted if Turkey general election could go in favour of opposition party. Since president Erdoğan is considered a sole hurdle in Sweden’s ratification. If the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Kilicdaroglu had won, the new Turkish administration would have likely revised some of Erdogan’s more contentious and confrontational foreign policy positions. In that context, a smarter approach by Stockholm and more flexibility from Ankara could lead to Sweden becoming the 32nd member of NATO. Therefore general elections of Turkey is not only shaping the future of Turks but for NATO as well.
Rising Powers in the Asia-Pacific: Implications for Global Stability
For a long time, the Asia-Pacific region has been the epicentre of rising economic growth and strategic influence, gradually changing the dynamics of world power. Because of the rapid rise of China and India, the increasing influence of ASEAN, and the steady comebacks of Japan and South Korea, its significance has only increased in the twenty-first century. Given the ongoing challenges to the traditional dominance of Western powers, this shifting environment raises intriguing questions about the future of global stability.
The rise of China stands out as the most significant factor in this dynamic. China’s phenomenal economic growth, along with its more assertive foreign policy and military modernization, have propelled it to the forefront of the global stage since the economic reform policies of the late 1970s. The Belt and Road Initiative, companies like Alibaba, and military actions in the South China Sea are just a few of the ways it is increasingly challenging the US-led international order. Due to its second-largest economy, China’s actions and policies have a significant impact on the stability of the world.
Despite lagging behind China, India is another growing Asian power that has started on a path of significant economic expansion. It has the potential to play a significant role in the region due to its distinct demographic dividend, IT industry, and geostrategic location. However, it problems a insufficiency in infrastructure, social inequality, and enduring poverty hinder its potential and raise the level of complexity in the power dynamics of the area.
In the midst of this power shift, Japan and South Korea, two countries that are already major global players, have been rearranging their positions. The balance of power in the region is greatly influenced by their advanced economies, sizable military capabilities, and strategic alliances with the US. A crucial role in the region is also played by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A seat at the table for shaping the future of the region has been secured for ASEAN despite its diversity and disparities thanks to its prominence in regional diplomatic structures like the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Additionally crucial to this shifting dynamic are the Pacific powers, particularly the US and Australia. While the US remains the most powerful country on the planet, it must deal with these new regional forces, necessitating a reevaluation of its Asia-Pacific strategy. Australia’s position has changed as well as a result of its efforts to strike a balance between its regional economic interests and its long-standing alliances. The effects of these changing power dynamics on world stability are significant. First, there is a chance that a power vacuum in the area could cause unrest and possible conflict. This is amply demonstrated by the South China Sea dispute, in which numerous nations are asserting territorial claims and frequently supporting them with military showdowns.
Second, the spread of power might also create more significant opportunities for cooperation and multilateralism. However, much of this depends on these countries’ ability to manage disagreements and rivalries as well as build inclusive and effective regional institutions. Thirdly, these changes might result in new economic structures that reshape international economic relationships and structures. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement involving 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific, is a good illustration of this. Last but not least, the changes in power may significantly affect international institutions and norms. As Asia-Pacific nations gain power, they may try to change international institutions so that they better represent their interests.
The main worry, however, is that these changes could result in more tensions and conflicts as countries with various political ideologies and systems compete for influence. For instance, the rivalry between the US and China goes beyond merely a contest of political and economic power. Several things are essential to preserving global stability in the midst of these shifting power dynamics. First and foremost, it is essential to promote a cooperative regional order based on mutual respect and gain. Second, preventing the escalation of regional disputes into conflict requires ensuring that they are settled peacefully in accordance with international law. Third, safeguarding and bolstering regional and international institutions will be essential for preserving stability and offering forums for communication and cooperation.
In conclusion, it is undeniable that the power dynamics in the Asia-Pacific are shifting. For the stability of the world, this evolution poses both danger and promise. How well we navigate this shifting landscape, handle potential conflicts, and seize opportunities for cooperation will determine whether the world can continue to be peaceful and stable.
Beyond the Battlefield
Since the beginning of time, wars and conflicts have been an inextricable part of human history. As such, they have developed in lockstep with the complex interactions between social, political, and technological changes that have shaped our world. Warfare’s methods and goals have undergone a significant metamorphosis, moving from crude and simple engagements to ones that are sophisticated and complex. Armed conflicts have expanded to take on global proportions with the advent of destructive world wars, and are no longer restricted to simple tribal or regional skirmishes. In addition to transcending their religious roots, these conflicts are now driven by nationalistic imperatives, giving rise to wars with geopolitical goals.
However, in the fierce race to reach the pinnacle of technological achievement with the introduction of a revolutionary artificial intelligence-powered search engine, issues of veracity and the widespread dissemination of false information are the most crucial issues of our time. These worries are well-founded because the consequences of a poorly functioning search engine could distort reality, worsen the already virulent spread of false information, and cause irreparable harm to the fabric of truth.
Additionally, warfare has changed from being characterized by linear battles to being characterized by maneuver warfare, placing greater emphasis on flexibility, agility, and strategic maneuvering. Armed engagements have evolved from primitive first-generation manifestations to the complex dynamics of fourth-generation warfare. They now involve a variety of unconventional tactics such as asymmetric tactics, psychological operations, and information warfare. Thus, in order to successfully navigate the complexity of the modern battlefield, this evolution calls for both a thorough understanding of the many facets of modern warfare and the adoption of adaptive strategies.
Simultaneously, the concept of fifth-generation warfare, also known as hybrid warfare, denotes a paradigm shift in contemporary military tactics, where the importance of cultural warfare, information warfare, and unconventional methods surpasses the conventional use of brute force on the battlefield, as seen in third- and fourth-generation warfare. India is said to be using 5th-generation warfare strategies against Pakistan to sow seeds of enmity and spread false information in an effort to block Pakistan’s progress. Moreover, India is using all of its resources to undermine Pakistani society in a number of different domains. Pakistan to modernize its weaponry and armed forces given the strategic landscape of South Asia, which is becoming more complex and volatile, especially given India’s use of fifth-generation warfare against Pakistan.
Relatedly, information warfare has undeniably grown significantly important in the effort to effectively project Pakistan’s narrative both domestically and internationally. A well-calibrated national response reinforced by a clearly defined foreign policy is required in light of the double-edged nature of fifth-generation warfare. Modern times see a rapid spread of irregular wars across the spectrum of conflict, amid intensifying great power competition, as the nature of warfare changes continuously.
Modern warfare has undergone a sea change as a result of the advancement of information technology, which makes it easier for nontraditional actors like violent extremist groups to communicate. We find ourselves ensconced in a world permeated by high tension, accompanied by a flood of tweets, ranging from the tumultuous battlefields in Ukraine to a pernicious terrorist attack on mass transit inside the borders of the United States. Our insatiable appetite for knowledge is driven by a desire to protect our safety, show compassion for those who are suffering, or see wrongdoers brought to justice. Despite our desire for knowledge, we must maintain an appropriate level of skepticism toward the sources that provide it. After all, we are living in a time that is frequently referred to as the “golden age of fake news.”
Today’s conflicts are largely not fought between nation-states and their armies; instead, they are increasingly fought with the mighty arsenal of words rather than with traditional weapons. In recent years, policy discussions, popular discourse, and academic analyses have given priority to a particular breed of weaponry: “fake news” and viral disinformation. In reality, disinformation used in warfare in the digital age may not differ much from other forms of warfare; after all, wars are fought to establish power, with some reaping financial rewards while the most vulnerable suffer the most.
The problem of fake news has gotten worse since the Internet and social networks were invented. The conventional news model, which involved a small number of media outlets run by experienced journalists who interviewed reliable sources and meticulously verified the information before it was published, has been overturned by the current media environment. Today, there are numerous channels, a never-ending stream of messages, and an environment where contradictory information is frequently overlooked that all contribute to the relative ease with which conspiracy theories and rumors can spread. The temptation to cling to a simpler fiction rather than taking on the laborious task of dissecting a more complex reality grows as we are frequently presented with contradictory messages.
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