Dramatic events unfold today in the sultry sands of Libya, where defeat after defeat suffers the recently seemingly victorious Libyan People’s Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Unfortunately, this crushing defeat does not just cross out certain plans of Russia, for which Haftar was a clear favorite. He actually questions the viability of our entire Middle East policy as a whole.
Even with the most ardent desire, in what is happening it is impossible to discern the realization of a certain “cunning plan”, any “multi-way” with an unexpected ending for the opponents. Success is success, and failure is failure ... Let's try to figure out - will the Libyan fiasco put an end to Russia's ambitions in the Middle East region?
"Work on the bugs" in the form of their repetition
It is impossible not to admit - in its current actions in the Middle East, Russia not only repeated many miscalculations that were made in approximately the same circumstances by the Soviet Union, but also managed to make new ones, so to speak, “without a hitch”. In this case, first of all, we should talk about such a fundamental issue for the foreign policy of any state as the choice of allies and associates. And the case in this case is not only in Haftar, which Russia openly took under its protection, negotiating between him and his opponents from the PNS in Moscow. The bet on the elderly field marshal, who was trying to “unite the country” under his command, was, apparently, a huge mistake.
Another experience of the USSR indicates that to provide military assistance to the Middle Eastern countries and invest in their the economy followed with utmost care. A good example here is the story of Egypt - what has just not been done for this state! The construction of the Aswan Dam alone, without which Egypt would have neither water nor electricity, cost 130 million then full-fledged Soviet rubles! Moreover - it is unlikely that it would have been built at all without the participation of our specialists. By the end of the 70s in the country they had built more than 30 largest enterprises - chemical, pharmaceutical, metallurgical and others. The local leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, was literally hung (at the suggestion of Nikita Khrushchev) with the highest awards of the USSR. There is nothing to talk about military cooperation - the Egyptian army generously armed itself with the products of the Soviet military-industrial complex, and when needed, our army was directly involved in the defense of the borders of this country.
As a result, all this did not prevent the same Nasser from slaughtering (in the most literal sense of the word) Egyptian Communists, and his successor Anwar Sadat - “turning” the country towards the United States. Normal relations with Cairo began to be restored almost before the collapse of the USSR, and Russia really had to establish them almost from a "clean slate". Similar examples can be given regarding the same Iran and some other countries in the region. Not everyone remembers this, but it was the USSR that contributed to the fact that the state of Israel and modern Turkey appeared on the political map of the world. Soviet people always cordially responded to requests for help - they came, built, trained and treated, trained local armies and supplied them with weapons to protect independence. But then at some point it suddenly turned out that in a country that was able to "get on its feet" and strengthen its borders, thanks to the support of the USSR, all the cunning Americans were already in charge, creeping in there unknown. Unfortunately, this trend was characteristic not only for the Middle East, but just in this region, with its not just centuries-old, but millennia-old traditions, speaking in decent words “multi-vector”, it manifested itself especially vividly. It is sad to talk about this, but it seems that Russia today faces the same problems, only in the modern version.
Moscow-Ankara: an “alliance” that is worse than hostility
Alas, almost the largest number of mistakes were made in building relations with Turkey. Trying to create a situational alliance with her, our country ultimately, with its own hands and on its own head, strengthened the most dangerous and seemingly irreconcilable enemy, the real problems with which, quite possibly, are just beginning. Joint patrols with the Turkish military in Syria, attempts to build with them any architecture of local security - all this was wonderful. The desire to drive a wedge between Ankara and other NATO members, primarily the United States, by “switching” it to Russian weapons, is also understandable. However, it is very likely that, having imagined himself a newly-minted sultan, Recep Erdogan ultimately outplayed everyone.
Building his actions in Libya, he, in fact, copied the tactics of Russia in Syria, having enlisted the “invitation” of the Government of Popular Accord for the introduction of Turkish military contingents and their participation in hostilities. They taught themselves to trouble ... The fact that the PNS does not support the majority of Libyans does not bother anyone in this case - the main thing is that it is considered by the various "international organizations", as well as representatives of NATO and the United States, as the "only legitimate authority in the country". Today, "world opinion" is clearly on the side of the PNS and behind the scenes of the Turks supporting it secretly. Erdogan is clearly not going to stop on the achieved success - he openly declares that the purpose of the offensive is to capture not only the city of Sirte and the Jufra air base, but also the entire oil-rich region there.
As far as is known, Turkish Petroleum has already applied to the government of Fayez Saraj with a “request” for obtaining exploration licenses in at least seven oil-bearing regions of Libya. There is no doubt in the favorable consideration of the petition - today the Turks will receive from Tripoli whatever they wish. The main thing they have achieved is carte blanche for the development of “black gold” reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, in accordance with the memorandum signed with Saraj and Ankara on a new redistribution of continental shelves and sea zones in this region. This agreement is considered to be a phylactic letter in Athens and not only there, but it does not bother Erdogan at all. Under no circumstances does he intend to turn off the newly-minted "Sultan" from the chosen course - he made too big a bet on Libya, perhaps the last in his political career going to dusk. Not without reason, after the military successes achieved there, a new wave of arrests of military men declared involved in the putsch in 2016 swept through Turkey - about 150 people were imprisoned. The ruler of Ankara felt himself again “on horseback” and was in a hurry to strengthen his power. There is no doubt - the fragile truce in Idlib is about to explode in new battles, and this time the Turks may have enough courage to trample on our military openly. According to reports, their army is deploying an air defense system in full in the territories of this province controlled by it, which are based on the MIM-23 Hawk air defense system. Against those who have absolute superiority in the air of the Russian Aerospace Forces, protection is so-so, but what will happen if they start to use it on our aircraft?
US backs down and ... win?
The main explanation of what is happening lies in the revelations of two people. First of all, Recep Erdogan himself, who announced on June 9 that in a telephone conversation with his American counterpart Donald Trump, they “fully agreed on a strategy for action in Libya and the Middle East region.” According to the Turkish leader, this agreement marks "a new era in the relations of Ankara and Washington." Erdogan intends to "discuss" the details of the agreement with Vladimir Putin, with whom "negotiations may be possible." Apparently, Ankara intends in this dialogue to simply confront the head of Russia with a fact. Which one? But the answer to this question is given by the words of David Schenker, US Under Secretary of State, who bluntly declared that our country should "get out of the Middle East," where it plays a "destructive role." Moreover, a senior official openly admitted that the only strategy that Washington has been following for 45 years is to "keep Russia away" from this region. The "terrible" rebuke of the Russian Foreign Ministry, through the mouths of representatives of the Russian embassy in the United States, reminded the Americans that they were in the same Syria completely lawless, without any reason whatsoever, in the current circumstances is somehow not impressive. Legally ... Illegally ... But nobody can put them out of there! And the "formidable silence" of our air defense systems in response to the Tomahawks attacks on Damascus, and the ongoing air raids by the allied US of Israel - this is the best evidence.
What does our country look like today with its deliveries to Ankara S-400 air defense systems, the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, European deliveries through which can be blocked at any moment, and other similar steps ?! By the way, the head of the Secretariat of the Defense Industry of Turkey, Ismail Demir, announced on the eve that the countries “reached an agreement in principle” on the supply of the second batch of Triumphs! By God, it’s not so long and before the trouble, when our weapons will be turned directly against us. It must be admitted - the bet that the sale of the most advanced weapons, joint economic projects and the allocation of certain "quotas" to Ankara for participation in Syrian affairs could make it at least temporary, somehow reliable geopolitical partner, was completely untenable. At the right moment for itself, the Turkish leadership “remembers” about its membership in NATO and begins to resolve issues of war and peace not with Moscow, but with Washington. Now a direct collision is most likely inevitable. If not in Libya, which is, in fact, already lost, then in Syria for sure. Incidentally, they are already beginning to “rock” it according to the old scenario of the “Arab spring” - in the province of Dara, with which riots broke out, which eventually grew into a war that required Russian intervention in 2015, unrest flared up again, and not only under anti-Assad slogans, but already specifically under anti-Russian ones. Who can stand behind such things is not particularly guessing.
The loss of Libya for Russia is not so bad, although image damage, especially caused, say, to some examples of domestic weapons, is very large. However, the forced withdrawal of our country from Syria, if any, will indeed become the final collapse of its Middle East policy and a grave geopolitical defeat. Especially after the great plans recently widely voiced by the leadership of the state to expand our military presence in Syrian territory. Is it possible to effectively resist the colossal efforts of the United States that they are making so that the "Russians get out"? What to oppose the aggressive actions that the United States is taking at the hands of its allies - Israel and Turkey?
Well, it’s certainly not the next “tomato war” or the lack of tourists in Antalya ... Perhaps Russia should look for allies in the ranks of the anti-Turkish alliance being created today, which already includes Greece, Cyprus, France, Egypt and the UAE. The same Minister of National Defense of Greece Nikos Panayotopoulos last week said that Athens is "ready for a war with Turkey, although they do not want it." If the Turkish expansion is not stopped today, who knows, will Russia not have to repel it already on its shores? For example, in the same Crimea, as has already happened. One way or another, but today it is being decided whether our country will remain a significant player in the geopolitical “layouts” of the Middle East or whether it will have to forget about any influence in this region for at least a very long time.