Russia’s Strategic waiting game in Libya

Publication date:
Ethan Chorin

Not since the start of the Cold War has there been such public hand-wringing over Russian intentions in Libya and the Mediterranean: a spate of recent articles warns that Russia’s moves in Libya are evidence of an aggressive, expansionistic policy, of a piece with Russian military actions in Ukraine and Crimea. But this is hyperbole: while Russia has taken advantage of US risk aversion during the Arab Spring to strengthen its position on numerous fronts – most notably Syria – its approach toward the greater Middle East is selective and opportunistic. Russia is interested primarily in maintaining and augmenting its geopolitical status, generating influence it can apply to interests closer to home, and assuring itself a piece of economic dividends from any future settlement. It has neither the resources, nor the desire to incur responsibility for a country that may prove to be a mess for a long time to come.