It appears now that the Libyan government has lost its most powerful, if rather half-hearted, defender on the world stage: the mighty Russian Federation. It was at the G8 summit in France, of all places, where turnaround seems to have happened.
US President Obama used the event to, as Jonathan Steele put it in The Guardian, "abandon his public caution and make it clear that regime change is now the western objective in Libya." Russia started out by heightening their opposition to that into the following unprecedented, but still muted, criticism:
Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, told The Associated Press that the NATO campaign has gone too far. As a result, he said, Russia feels "burned" and doesn’t want to support a U.N. resolution warning Syria about its crackdown on anti-government protesters. "We will be very careful," he said in an interview at Deauville. [source]By the end of the conference, they agreed with the other leaders that, however it happened, Gaddafi had in fact "lost legitimacy" and must step down. And they're taking the lead in talks to makeit happen, if possible. I'm still parsing this, but I'd venture that the Russians' thinking to that end seems more mechanistic and based on cold reality than the pseudo-moralistic and free-floating proclamations of their belligerent counterparts in the NATO bloc. There's room for something interesting here, as well as for more predictable failure.
Russia 'Fires' Qaddafi
By Elizabeth Surnacheva
Translated By Yekaterina Blinova
May 27, 2011
As a result of the G8 summit in Deauville, it has fallen on Russia to resolve the problem of Muammar Qaddafi. Dmitry Medvedev said he supported the desire of Western countries to remove the Libyan leader and has sent his special envoy to Benghazi for negotiations.Russia has been the most powerful (if not the most incisive) critic of NATO's deceptive regime change campaign in Libya. But here, even Russia's elites have finally joined the pod people it seems, in the apparent global consensus (among white, northern elites) that can turn any twisted notion into the accepted truth.
In French Deauville, one of the busiest G8 summits in terms of agreements has come to an end. The final statement took up 25 pages. But the key agreement turned out to be one on Libya. The Kremlin, which spoke skeptically at first about the operation in that country, has finally agreed with the West that the Jamahiriya political regime must be changed.
This is, however, the first time I'm aware of where it was openly specified that the whole governmental and economic system ("the Jamahiriya political regime") must be changed, beyond the simple "departure" of Gaddafi and his sons that has been demanded. That's potentially interesting. I've suspected from the outset that was the real target, and the relevant gripes against the Jamahiriya pre-date by far any 2011 atrocities. Surnacheva continues to the summit's final, bold, and rather philosophical conclusions:
The unified position on Libya was recorded in the final declaration. The leaders of Group of Eight stated that Muammar Qaddafi has lost his right to govern.The government has lost its ability "to protect the Libyan population." Indeed, something about not being allowed to shoot its own guns, spend its own money, or do anything, really, has hampered Libya's ability to protect its people from the rebel uprising and its racist, terrorist actions. Nor by a mile can they prevent the relentless bombs of the rebellion's NATO benefactors. Now that these things are fact, obviously, he can't govern the country he sort-of built, and he must ... I dunno, go somewhere else.
The document notes that the Libyan government was unable to fulfill its duty to protect the population of its country, and has lost its legitimacy. "Qaddafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go," says the document. Russia backed the statement and at the request of its partners, has sent its envoy.
The president announced at the conclusion of the summit that he was sending Mikhail Margelov to Benghazi. Medvedev said, “I have decided to dispatch my special envoy to Africa, Mr. Margelov. He is flying out to Libya immediately.” According to the Russian leader, if the colonel steps down voluntarily, “then we can discuss how to go about it, what country might take him in, on what terms, what he can keep and what he must lose.” Medvedev said that Russia would not be the country that takes Qaddafi. According to the president, the global community no longer sees Qaddafi as the recognized leader of Libya.Keep? The government, the whole system, just as illegitimate as HE is? HE will have to leave, and what? Keep the system, take it with him? What do the people get to keep, IN LIBYA? (more on the trade-offs here)
Russia said May 27 it’s seeking to negotiate Qaddafi’s departure, for the first time supporting the goals of the military campaign led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Qaddafi has forfeited his right to govern and Russia is using its contacts with the Libyan regime to persuade him to step down, President Dmitry Medvedev said in Deauville, France, after a Group of Eight summit.Fact is, right or wrong, it's happening. May as well cash in, right? Might score a few brownie points with the new management, which NATO member France selected late last year. And they can use the brownie points; the upstarts have been less than favorable to Moscow in the past. For even abstaining from the vote on a "no-fly zone" (no govern zone, really) at the UNSC, they were told they'd get no oil contracts in Libya, ever.
AFP - A former top minister in Moamer Kadhafi's regime who has fled to Europe in a fishing trawler told AFP in an interview that he believes China and Russia have "lost" the race for oil in Libya. "Kadhafi has no future now," said Fathi Ben Shatwan, a former Kadhafi ally whose last government post was as energy minister and who made a dramatic escape from the besieged city of Misrata under fire from government troops.http://www.france24.com/en/20110407-china-russia-have-lost-oil-race-libya-ex-minister
"The new democracy will deal very well with the people who helped us" including with oil sector rewards for Italy and France, which have officially recognised the opposition interim national council in Benghazi. "Russia and China lost. They shouldn't have done this," he said, referring to the abstention of Moscow and Beijing from a UN Security Council vote that authorised military intervention by international powers in Libya.
He dismissed Kadhafi's threats to grant oil contracts to Russia and China as "a sort of game" by a desperate man.
A game perhaps, but Gaddafi's team has been outplayed here by mr. Shatwan's. Now that Russia has turned around some to their own number one sticking point, the rebel attitude has followed. Surnacheva continues:
In Benghazi, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of Libya’s Interim Transitional National Council, welcomed the Russian offer. “Free Libya is looking forward to building and strengthening its relations with the Russian Federation,” he said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.He also expressed interest in discussing a cease-fire under anyone's leadership, so long as the Gaddafis first just went away somewhere. It's hoped the whole government would then collapse, which it might, having failed to create a strong enough identity of its own (despite some trying).
All this said, agreeing against Gaddafi does give the Russians something they haven't had yet - a currency, if token, with the NATO bloc and "the world community." And their recent forays into a negotiated solution do, to me, show at least glimmers of the basic world sanity entirely lacking in NATO's our-way-by-all-means approach.
Russia's new activism on Libya
Vladimir RadyuhinThe Hindu, May 26
Ahead of the G8 summit in France on May 26-27, Russia has stepped up diplomatic activity in the Arab world in an effort to recapture the initiative it lost to the West in the recent turmoil in the region.The bolded parts are those NATO and the rebels are dead-set against. A peaceful, non-pressured, democratic approach in Libya will not produce the desired outcome. And that, in turn, would deflate their illusions about what the people of Libya really want. But this is the right place to look and the right way to do it, whether Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron like it or not. What this means next to the announcement Medvedev signed just after is unclear at the moment, but hopefully something positive can come of this turn as far as saving the best of the revolution, rather than the none of it currently planned.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week met in Moscow with a delegation of the Libyan opposition led by former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdurraham Muhamed Shalgham. The meeting took place less than a week after representatives of the Libyan government and the special UN Secretary General's envoy for Libya Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib visited Moscow.
Mr. Lavrov said Moscow's main goal in engaging the two warring sides was “to promote an immediate end to the bloodshed, to the military activities.”
“It is important at this stage to help define the participants in future talks… that would represent the interests of all political forces [and] all tribes in Libya,” Mr. Lavrov said adding that a concrete list should be the result of an “all-Libya consensus.”
Sorry, Col. Gaddafi, Libyans who love him ... there are no ways forward, barring miracles, that will be easy. Something big must give. Even the Russians, and even I, can see this. It's not right, but it's real. Think on that long and hard. If there's one thing you seem really bad at, it's being realistic. Get better quick, my advice.