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What Russia makes of Hifter's offensive on Tripoli

Russia has positioned itself as an impartial middleman in the Libyan crisis, but there's a fine blueprint that defines this position.
Members of Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, get ready before heading out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori - RC1B9C0FEEB0

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently put Russia in the spotlight in Libya by first holding a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing and later discussing Libya with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone. Conte reportedly proposed his Russian counterpart to work together on the resolution of the deepening crisis in Libya.

Russian strategy toward Libya may indeed seem puzzling to observers, with constant zigzagging between conflicting parties, which in the words of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is Russia’s approach “to not bet on any one party.” In reality, however, the Russian strategy at present is mostly reactionary and only aims to keep Russia relevant in the Libyan context. Unlike other foreign powers that have established clientelistic partnerships with local actors, the Kremlin has little skin in the game and has little to offer what other foreign powers can’t.

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