Libya: The Next Piece in Russia’s Geopolitical Chess Match
March 18, 2017
Reuters is reporting that Russia, according to anonymous Egyptian and US sources, deployed military advisers and drones to an Egyptian air base near the border with Libya. There was no official confirmation of the reports. Russia, for its part, has denied it, but doubts remain. For the past few months, Russia’s official stance has been to establish ever closer relations to General Khalifa Haftar, who has played a leading role in fighting ISIS and other Islamists in Libya’s eastern region of Cyrenaica. The general has even secured French and British support. However, Haftar’s rising influence represents a challenge to the UN-recognized government led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli.
Whether there are actually Russian troops at the Libyan border or not, Russia has long had interests in Libya. Their bilateral relationship has been centered on security and military sales; it began decades ago, involving the supply of Soviet-era weaponry to the North African country, from MiG jets to tanks. In the 1970s and 80s, Libyan officers received training from Russian instructors. That Moscow would seek to revive this relationship now should come as a surprise to no one.