The American Kafir

2011/03/21

Russia Finds Opportunity in the Libyan Crisis

Filed under: Communism, France, Libya, National Security, Obama, UK, United Nations — - @ 5:47 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

March 21, 2011 | 2026 GMT

SERGEY MAMONTOV/AFP/Getty Images Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on March 19

Summary

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said March 21 that the U.N. Security Council resolution allowing foreign military intervention in Libya is “defective and flawed,” and criticized the West — particularly the United States — for being overly aggressive. The military intervention in Libya has given Russia an opportunity to return to a confrontational stance against the United States as Moscow and Washington discuss missile defense and other contentious issues.

Analysis

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on March 21 criticized the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya for allowing foreign military intervention in a sovereign state. Putin called the resolution “defective and flawed,” adding that “it allows everything and is reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade.” Putin noted that Russia, which abstained on the U.N. resolution vote and is not involved in the operation, wanted to avoid direct intervention and admonished the West — especially the United States — for acting too aggressively.

Putin’s comments indicate the strength of Russia’s geopolitical position in the midst of several ongoing crises. The Western-led intervention in Libya is an opportunity for Putin to return to a familiar confrontational position on the United States in order to advance Russia’s interests even further at a difficult time for Washington.

As several crises continue unfolding across the world — the nuclear accident in Japan, growing unrest in the Persian Gulf and now the military invention in Libya — no country has benefited geopolitically from these developments more than Russia. Growing instability has caused oil prices to rise, boosting Russia’s income. Japan’s dependence on nuclear power for energy has caused Tokyo to turn to Russia for more natural gas supplies, and concerns over the safety of nuclear power have led the Europeans — Russia’s primary energy market — to reconsider many future (and existing) nuclear plants. The chaos in Libya, even before the Western-led military intervention began, took much of Libya’s oil and natural gas exports offline, and Russia has been more than happy to make up the difference to Italy and other European countries. Perhaps most important, it appears that the window of opportunity that led to Russia’s geopolitical re-emergence in the first place — U.S. distraction in the Middle East — will be growing for the foreseeable future.

The conflict in Libya has not only opened up a third theater for U.S. military involvement, it has also given Putin the chance to characterize the United States as overly aggressive and willing to invade anywhere, while Russia prefers a more cautious approach. Russia’s position is strong enough that it feels it can easily switch between cooperation with and opposition to the United States. Russia has been more cooperative under the “reset” in ties between Washington and Moscow, but Putin is reverting to the tactics he used when Russia was geopolitically weaker, from the mid-2000s through early 2009, when he constantly and publicly railed against the United States.

Besides using the opportunity to criticize the United States, Putin has two other reasons for his confrontational push. First, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in St. Petersburg meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Missile defense is the key topic, and Washington is offering a small concession on this controversial topic in setting up an exchange center for sharing data. However, this is not enough for the Russians, who want actual participation in missile defense. Putin’s speech criticizing the U.S. involvement in Libya symbolically was made at a ballistic missile factory on the same day Gates was in the country. Putin noted that the Libyan intervention “once again confirms the rightness of those measures which we undertake to strengthen Russia’s defense capacity” and that Russia would increase its ballistic missile capabilities.

The second issue is that Putin personally is not happy with the United States after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Russia. When Biden was in Moscow, he met with Russian opposition leaders — something that displeased the Kremlin, particularly since Biden mocked a famous quote from former U.S. President George W. Bush about Putin during these opposition meetings, saying he “looked into Putin’s eyes and saw no soul.”

Given that U.S. commitments are increasing while Russia’s ability to maneuver is growing, Moscow is using the current opportunity to make its displeasure with Washington known.

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