Russia Mediates Against Qaddafi

Mikhail Margelov's visit to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi demonstrates that Russia is breaking with Qaddafi to conserve its interests.

Amiel Ungar, | updated: 23:44

Dimitry Medvedev
Dimitry Medvedev

Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov, who takes orders from President Dmitry Medvedev, is now in Libya attempting to mediate. As opposed to South Africa's Jacob Zuma, the Russian envoy is apparently there with NATO's blessing. For one thing, the Russians have apparently turned the corner on Libya and their neutrality stance is now much more favorable to the rebels in Benghazi, Libya.

Margelov is beginning his trip by meeting the rebel leaders "My task is to meet with rebel leaders. However, I do not rule out that I may have to go to Tripoli, too, if I get the corresponding order from the president" In other words, a visit to Qaddafi will be an afterthought.

The Russians claim that during the recent meeting of the G-8 at the end of May, the Russians were asked to intervene. Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalia Timakova revealed"In the bilateral meetings, everyone thanked the president for his constructive position on Libya. More than that, in practically all the discussions it was requested that Russia undertake a mediation mission for a settlement in Libya,".

Andrey Kortunov, President of the new Eurasia Foundation in Moscow, writing in Russia Today claims that Russia is merely being faithful to its policy of minimizing the bloodshed in Libya and was extricating a NATO that was in over its head in Libya. NATO had miscalculated, thinking that Libya was a soft touch like Tunisia and Egypt and had underestimated Qaddafi's strong base of support.

However if one was to read the commentary by the Chinese news agency Xinhua on June 1, such Russian altruism as argued by Kortunov is discounted

"Russian President Dmitry Medvedev strikingly joined the Western powers in urging Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to give up power at the latest round of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in the northern French seaside town of Deauville.

Experts and analysts believe Russia made the move to protect its own interests in Libya and hse a stake in the country's future. Yet they remain skeptical over whether Russia could help make a difference in the Middle East country."

China is angry with Russia because the 2 countries have up to now displayed a united front in attempting to circumscribe Western humanitarian intervention. It fears repercussions on the global balance of power and suspects that it will provide a pretext for further intervention in countries that China considers its allies. China has made inroads by protecting unsavory regimes under the guise of noninterference and therefore the Russians defection is irritating to Beizhing.

NATO has an interest in enlisting the Russians. For one, a Russo-Chinese block could throw a monkey wrench into intervention in Libya; China by itself could not make mischief and could not project a presence in the Mediterranean.

Secondly, Russia, once the major arms supplier to Qaddafi, was also the tyrant's major hope. To some extent it recalls the Napoleonic wars and World War II when the decision to invade Russia was partially motivated by the expectation that Britain would give in once Russia was subdued. 

Nobody would consider invading Russia and therefore, as opposed to Iraq, the NATO countries have no problems with letting Russia conserve her positions with the new regime in Libya in return for mediation that would oust Qaddafi and abbreviate the war.