It seems that the repercussions of the Russian military invasion in Ukraine are beginning to affect Libya, which is facing sharp tensions influenced by external powers. The parties involved in the first conflict (Libya) are the same in the second crisis (Ukraine); Moscow, Washington, and the European Union.
Signs of conflict appeared when Russia renewed its endeavor to end the tasks of the UN mission in Tripoli, a few weeks before the start of the discussion about extending its term and appointing a new head for it. Russia also stressed its refusal to empower veteran American diplomat Stephanie Williams and prevent her from obtaining international legitimacy beyond her mission as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Libya.
Moscow rejects the hegemony of the American and British sides on the UN mission. Russia also prevented the appointment of the American diplomat, Richard Wilcox, who was working on the National Security Council at the White House, which has further complicated the situation for Washington and its allies who seek to consolidate their influence in Libya.
Actually, the crisis between the three parties in Libya was born since the first spark of the Libyan revolution, which led to the assassination of President Muammar Gaddafi. It reached its maximum extent last November and December when Moscow sought to allow supporters of the former regime to run in the elections, including the presidential elections, and forces loyal to it secured the exit of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from his hiding place to present his candidacy file in front of television cameras in the city of Sabha, the capital of the southern region. The thing that angered Washington, which pressed for the postponement of the elections so as not to see Muammar Gaddafi return in the image of his son to power.
With the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, it was clear that there was a fierce confrontation between Moscow and Western countries over the situation in Libya, especially with Dabaiba’s quest to gain the satisfaction of the United States. Therefore, when the Libyan House of Representatives, on the first of last March, granted confidence to the stable government headed by Fathi Bashagha, Russia was the only country that welcomed it and confirmed that it was ready to cooperate with it, to move forward with a comprehensive political settlement in Libya.
The recent war of rumors was aimed at shuffling the cards in Libya and dividing it again according to foreign alliances by presenting the West as Washington’s ally and the East as Russia’s ally. And what is described as political Islam that dominates the western region knows how to exploit the Russian-Ukrainian conflict within the contexts of historical and ideological revenge with Moscow, dating back to the first war in Afghanistan and the Chechen wars, to the war in Syria and the Russians’ relations with the House of Representatives and the Libyan army forces, passing through Moscow’s positions on political Islam. All of these wars confirm that the Islamists consider themselves part of the Western alliance, and they believe that Moscow was against their project, contrary to what Washington and London have shown in terms of broad support for them.
Because of the seriousness of the energy file in the Ukrainian crisis and its negative repercussions on the European side, Washington has tried for weeks to calm the atmosphere between the Dabaiba government and the National Oil Corporation. This is where the relations between the two parties are going through an unprecedented crisis, which made the Minister of Oil and Gas, Mohamed Aoun, call on Dabaiba to restructure the current board of directors of the National Oil Corporation, because the current board was formed in violation of the laws and legislation established for the corporation and regulating its work, according to his estimation. Of course, Washington hoped that this step would contribute to reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and shift to Libyan gas.
Thus, the Libyans will have to have a share in the flames of the elders’ conflict, and until there is calm there, the situation in Ukraine will cast a shadow over the Libyan crisis, and its continuation will lead to a further deepening of the gap between the parties to the conflict inside Libya.
Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University