Russia would strengthen the North African dimension of its “Ummah Pivot”, complementarily optimize the security dimension of its African Pivot, and become a major powerbroker along the EU’s/NATO’s southern periphery.
Bloomberg reported on Sunday that “Putin’s Move to Secure Libya Bases Is New Regional Worry for US”, which cited unnamed source who informed them that the Russian leader and Libyan National Army (LNA) chief Haftar allegedly discussed such cooperation during the latter’s trip to Moscow in late September. If this turns out to be true and something tangible comes from their claims, then the opening of air and/or naval bases could benefit Russia in the five following ways.
1. Speculative Reports About The Impending End Of Russian Naval Power Would Be Discredited
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Russia had begun withdrawing its naval forces from Crimea to Novorossiysk, which followed Kiev’s claims that anti-ship missiles and naval drones dealt an irreparable blow to Russia’s naval power. By opening a naval base in Libya, Russia would discredit those reports and restore confidence in that dimension of its military power. After all, its fleet would have to traverse the Black Sea en route to the Mediterranean, thus proving that NATO-backed Kiev can’t stop it.
2. US Bases In Greece & Italy Could Be Surveilled By Russia From Libya
Bloomberg cited a former US special envoy to Libya who warned that “if Russia gets a port there, that gives it the ability to spy on all of the European Union”, which also of course includes US bases in Greece and Italy. The first is becoming that that country’s preferred military outpost in the Eastern Mediterranean while the second’s airbase in Sicily’s Sigonella arguably remains its most important at the crossroads of “EurAfrica”. Surveilling those facilities from Libya is therefore in Russia’s interests.
3. The Russian Navy Could Help Europe Defend Itself From Illegal Immigration As Part Of A Larger Deal
The EU is unable to adequately protect itself from illegal immigration owing to a lack of political will to intercept incoming boats and a lack of requisite military capabilities to preempt migrants’ voyage northward to the Libyan coast. In the event that the West’s interest in resuming peace talks with Russia over Ukraine bears fruit, which were analyzed here, then any larger deal that they reach through such talks could include the Kremlin’s help on this in exchange for Western concessions elsewhere.
4. Russia’s Diplomatic Role In Resolving The Libyan Civil War Would Become Indispensable
Just like Turkiye’s diplomatic role in resolving the Libyan Civil War became indispensable upon its reported obtainment of bases in the part of the country under its UN-recognized government’s control, so too would Russia’s be the same after doing this in the part under the LNA’s control. Should that happen, then those two could leverage their surprisingly pragmatic strategic partnership to pioneer a political solution to this conflict (“confederalism”?), which would boost both of their regional renown.
5. Libya Could Facilitate More Robust Military Cooperation Between Russia & The Sahelian Alliance
The formal transfer of reportedly Wagner-controlled airbases in Eastern Libya to Russia could serve to optimize its military cooperation with the newly formed Sahelian Alliance via neighboring member Niger. Burkina Faso and Mali need all the help they can get from their Russian partner for beating back a motley crew of Western-supported terrorist and rebel groups, which Libya can facilitate by granting it such bases and thus play a pivotal role in restoring stability to the conflict-beleaguered Sahel region.
The five arguments in favor of Russia opening up bases in Libya prove that this would be a geostrategic masterstroke if it comes to pass. Russia would strengthen the North African dimension of its “Ummah Pivot”, complementarily optimize the security dimension of its African Pivot, and become a major powerbroker along the EU’s/NATO’s southern periphery. Its diplomatic-military renown would grow in parallel with these achievements, and this would reinforce its status as one of the leading Great Powers.