By Tom Balmforth, Russia Profile
- Russia not to participate in no-fly zone operations in Libya - Medvedev
- Medvedev rebuts Putin over Libya (Update 1)
- Medvedev says comparing UN resolution on Libya with 'medieval crusade call' inadmissible
- Putin likens UN Libya resolution to crusade call
- Putin says Security Council resolution on Libya "flawed"
Russia’s ambivalent Libya policy stuck between international mainstream and non-interference doctrine
Russia’s divided position on the world’s most pressing issue, the international operation against Libya, has led to the most outspoken clash to date between the country’s two leaders: President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, speaking at the military industrial center of Votkinsk in Perm Territory, Putin condemned the UN Security Council resolution, in which Russia had abstained, as “deficient” and likened it to a “medieval call to crusade.” Later in the day, Medvedev appeared before reporters wearing a leather coat with the golden letters “Supreme Commander” embroidered on it to confirm that he stood behind his instruction to abstain in the Security Council and issued a warning to unnamed politicians, who are “flapping their wings against their body” and use vocabulary that “may lead to a clash of civilizations.”
This is not the first open clash between Putin and Medvedev, but definitely the strongest one, observers say. The way Russian television attempted to mitigate the coverage of the conflict Monday evening also speaks in favor of the fact that it was real and not staged.
“Previous misunderstandings between Medvedev and Putin (there have been at least four since last summer) could be interpreted in various ways,” wrote prominent journalist Mikhail Fishman in his comment on Russian Forbes website. “This time the president has for the first time reigned in the prime minister, when he started to boss around the field, that has been already mastered and even partially modernized by Medvedev – foreign policy… The louder the conflicts, the more obvious it becomes: the end to the diarchy is nearing. Putin and Medvedev will soon be unable to rule Russia the way they did just recently.”
The public spat between the leaders did not appear out of nothing. Both the foreign policy establishment and ordinary Russians are divided on the issue. On the one hand, there is a strong traditional support of noninterference doctrine and resentment of any forms of Western power projection, especially when it comes to military action. On the other hand, there is the repressive Muammar Gaddafi regime, that is hard to sympathize with, and a strong international mainstream that no longer sees non-interventionism as paramount value. There is also a purely practical desire not to ruin the fruits of the “reset” and other forms of progress in relations between Russia and the West.
Some official voices, including that of the Foreign Ministry spokesman, accuse the coalition of trespassing the mandate and using force disproportionately.
"We believe a mandate given by the UN Security Council resolution, a controversial move in itself, should not be used to achieve goals outside its provisions, which only see measures necessary to protect the civilian population," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Sunday. Lukashevich said the West had bombed “non-military” targets in Tripoli, Tarhuna, Maamura and Jmeil, resulting in the death of 48 “civilians,” as well as injuring over 150.
The air strikes came on the heels of Friday’s 1973 UN Resolution, which was passed by 10 votes out of 15, with the remaining five member states abstaining. The Russian Foreign Ministry later called the resolution “brash” instead of using its veto power in the UN Security Council.
One explanation of this incoherency was offered by the Kommersant business daily on Monday. The Kremlin originally sought to vote in favor of the resolution, the business daily reported, citing “informed sources.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, favored wielding Russia’s veto power on the UN Security Council to block the resolution. In the end a compromise was reached and Moscow decided to sit on the fence alongside the other three BRIC countries, Brazil, India and China, as well as Germany.
But after Monday’s exchange between Putin and Medvedev, speculation mounts that there is actually divergence over the Libya question between the two leaders. “This UN Security Council resolution is without doubt defective and harmful,” Putin said on Monday, after calling it a “medieval call to crusade.” The powerful prime minister took care to add that these views represent only his own personal opinion, since foreign policy is the Kremlin’s remit.
By Monday evening disagreement between Putin and Medvedev looked even more evident as the Russian president called Putin’s statement “inadmissible.” “Russia did not exercise [the veto power] for one reason,” Medvedev retorted. “I do not consider this resolution to be wrong. Moreover, I believe that this resolution generally reflects our understanding of what is going on in Libya…It is absolutely inexcusable to use expressions that in effect lead to a clash of civilizations – such as ‘crusades,’ and so on. That is unacceptable,” Medvedev said.
Russian television first gave full reports of Putin’s statement and, after Medvedev’s response, gradually gave greater airtime to broadcasting the president’s position and minimized their coverage of the prime minister’s attack on the UN resolution, so an otherwise uninformed viewer who watched only late evening news would not have known about the clash of positions between the two leaders.
With only a year to go until presidential elections, the apparent spat will be appreciated by undernourished “tandemologists,” but various other incoherencies in Libyan policy have been noted by analysts as well. “Russia is clearly in a very awkward position,” said Pavel Baev of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. “What is also very clear is that the signals Moscow is sending are ambivalent, incoherent and even slightly embarrassing.” Medvedev’s press secretary has publically denied such schizophrenia, although analysts point to a number of policies that Russia has pursued, which jar with its criticism and abstention from Friday’s resolution.
Medvedev has condemned abuses committed by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in the raging civil war and also signed off on the initial UN arms embargo on Libya that cost Russia in excess of $4 billion in lost arms contracts. This latter move suggested that Russia’s disapproval of Gaddafi’s regime superseded its non-interventionism, said one analyst. Moreover, unlike Russia’s past noisy opposition to the Iraq and Kosovo interventions, Moscow gave no clear indication which way it would go on the Libya question.
“Libya is a special case and stands out from the revolutions and uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East,” said Baev. “While Russia generally expresses concern about revolutions, Russia’s position on Libya has been rather negative.” But, when on Friday the UN Security Council convened to pass a “no-fly” zone on Libya when pro-Gaddafi forces were preparing to march on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Russia balked.
The ethical dimension of Medvedev’s condemnation of the Gaddafi regime had hinted that the Kremlin was leaning toward the international mainstream. But at the same time, Russia’s old mantra of non-interference in the domestic affairs of foreign countries appears to jar with the measures being imposed by the international community. Russia has watched all the uprisings spreading through North Africa and the Middle East with unease simply because of its policy belief in the ascendancy of stability over democracy – values often touted as mutually exclusive.
“The second component is that Russia has very strong worries about every revolutionary change,” said Baev. “I would say that there is a counter-revolutionary coalition in the making with countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. From Russia’s perspective, what is happening in Bahrain is perfectly fine, and what has happened in Egypt is a matter of concern.” The ironfisted quelling of an uprising in Bahrain last week brought little disapproval from Russia, while Moscow watched the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last month with unease.
Still, some analysts say that Russia is simply behaving pragmatically on Libya. “Russia’s position is the same as Germany and China’s,” said Vladimir Isaev, the head of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. “To talk about double standards is wrong. Russia has firmly undertaken a policy of neutrality. In my opinion, Russia’s position is one of pragmatic non-interference.”
Indeed, a source close to the Kremlin administration cited by Vedomosti said that Russia hopes to benefit from the double dividend of not being associated with the “Western” intervention in the Muslim world. Not only will the intervention drive up the price of oil, but it may also increase – relative to the West – Russia’s image in the Arab world. The Arab world appears to now be taking a dimmer view of the intervention too.
President Medvedev also offered to mediate the conflict on Monday.
“As far as our mediation and peacemaking efforts are concerned, we will gladly use them if they are useful in this situation,” Medvedev said. “We have pretty good connections in the Arab world.”
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- dmeyer40(no title)21:55, 22/03/2011Funny how that "strong traditional support of noninterference doctrine" plays out in Georgia. And spare me the "Saakashvili started it" rhetoric.
- avatar_singhanglosaxon(and not west) needs to be destroyed by any means06:18, 23/03/2011GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.
I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you’re too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don’t know." He said, "I guess they don’t know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."
So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it’s worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs"—meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office—"today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don’t show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!"
Gitmo still open
- Military tribunals ongoing
- Indefinite detention still in use
- Extraordinary rendition to brutal foreign intelligence agencies for EIT
- Renewal of the Patriot Act
- Tripling the number of combat troops in Afghanistan
- Stepped up use of drone asssasssinations
- Dramatic increase in private military ‘contractors’
- Flexible and expanding Afghanistan withdrawal date
and now ...
- Threatening to attack Libya
Yes an act of war within its own country. Not outer. Gaddafi isn't invading other countries or has 1000 bases around the world like the US. Nor is Gaddafi in multiple wars with other countries or have clandestine spec ops in 75 countries like the US. Don't you understand how the US wants to add Libya to that list? Do you know how much mega bad corporations have business in Libya?
============They will attack against Hugo Chavez and Venezuela next. Russia will not oppose.
Next they will attack Iran. Russia will not oppose.
Next they will attack Russia. Again Russia will not oppose but surrender unconditionally.
What a pathetic world. =
==============I keep wondering the irony and doubled faced of the UN when it comes to the arab revolts. Saudi Arabia a strong USA ally sends troops to supress the pro-democarcy revolt in Bahrain which in turn those troops are shooting at civilians and arresting opposition leaders while the UN is concerned about the Libyan civilians...Israel bombing and using of internationally banned chemicals agents gainst the civilian population in Gaza also the UN did not move a finger. The UN has lost face and legitimacy in the eyes of the world (except for US, Britain and Israel). I will give my implicit and full trust to Commander Chavez for the creation of our own socialist and humanist tribunals, this way I'll know that my hunam and civil rights are protrected!! =======
========== Let's consider:
Attacking Iraq on phony information: check
Invading Afghanistan to support a corrupt leader with little support against an embedded insurgency for over 10 years: check
Support the Egyptian army after demonstrations got rid of the president: check
Egyptian army continues policies of torture and detention: check
Bomb Libya for regime change: check
Fire drones into Pakistan killing cvilians: check
Support a dictator in Yemen: check
Tacitly approve the Gulf state invasion of Yemen to keep dictator in power: check
And this is only the top line of war over the past 20 years. At least is is an equal opportunity area for both parties. ================
yes but Russia is finsihed now-sadly putin coming too late for 2012.
russia wanted to be a memebr of nato for some time-it has become one-a junior membr much less in importance than even check republic and behodden to decisions made in london and washington now. congratuletions for having abstanined and allowing angloamericvan war on libya-your time will be soon russia . you will not be able to protect oyourkand your ebautiful woemn and certainly not your culture byebye"
ameerican can get cia murderer from paksitan but russaain bout has to stay in a rotten jail in usa-such is the real status of russia now.
Image Galleries: One Day With Moscow’s Contemporary “Knights”
Infographics: Yakhont Medium-Range Anti-Ship Missile
Cartoons: Dreams of Space
The current contract portfolio of Russian arms exporters is worth about $46 billion. Annual exports total $15 billion, and this will ensure uninterrupted deliveries for the next three years, even in the worst-case scenario. The list of the main buyers of Russian weapons is unlikely to change drastically.