The Libyan elections have nullified Russia’s most recent argument regarding Syria. The position held by Russian president Vladimir Putin has become baseless and he can now no longer say, “Look what NATO did in Libya. Russia will not allow itself to be deceived again.”
Even the Kremlin has been forced to recognize that the elections in Libya were, to a large extent, free and fair. Most importantly, the elections were held amidst a calm and peaceful atmosphere. However, Russia expressed reservations over the results, as well as regarding the resulting National Constituent Assembly’s ability to contain the militias and insurgents rebelling against the state and its institutions.
Moscow also expressed reservations over whether or not the new Assembly would be able to prevent the establishment of a federal system in Libya. This is, in fact, a legitimate reservation, which has also been expressed by the West, though the latter’s concern over the unity of the Libyan state does not match that of Moscow's.
There is no doubt that the calm nature of the elections in Libya surprised the whole world. It was perhaps the most significant in the series of surprises that began with the emergence of revolutionaries in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and every other Arab country now that is witnessing a revolt. Libya is being reborn, and a society is rediscovering itself and its identity. Its citizens headed to the polls in record numbers and with exceptional enthusiasm to take part in erasing Gadhafi’s stigma from Libya's history.
Through a look at the unique Libyan experience, one can conclude that the NATO military intervention was painful, questionable and disgraceful to Libyans and the whole [Arab] nation. But it also gave the Libyan people a unique opportunity to rebuild their state, in the absence of any form of colonial rule or foreign mandate, and away from the fraud operations that foreigners had carried out in former colonies or deals that are worse than the ones signed by Gadhafi with the West during the last years of his rule.
The nationalist Salafist movement will continue to condemn and question this special experience. It will even go as far as accusing the entire Libyan people of collaborating with foreigners. But these developments will not prevent a debate on Syria, whose regime and rebel opposition only agree on one thing: the exclusion of foreign military intervention, regardless if it is Arab or NATO-led, as was the case in Libya. In any case, the evolution of internal conflict no longer allows for the deployment of Arab or foreign soldiers in Syrian territory.
The balance of power has turned to a point which makes it possible to claim that the armed opposition no longer requires assistance from any foreign force. However, some are now stating that there may be a need to send foreign troops (with the participation of Russia) to Syria toward the end of the crisis in order to protect the supporters of the regime from possible reprisals.
The Libyan experience was and is not a perfect one. However, it may push Russia to take the lead on calling for external intervention in Syria, so that it may avoid repeating the unintentional Libyan mistake.