Ceasefire better than killing innocent people -Interview +
Laaska News May 7,2011
Kudashkina Ekaterina May 5
Interview with Victor Mizin, Deputy Director of the International Studies Institute at the MGIMO University in Moscow, Russia.
Today we decided to do a program on Libya because it is two and a half months into the Libyan war, and it still seems that the international force is not succeeded in implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Are we correct in our presumption or, perhaps, there is something we do not know?
It is strange that NATO forces are basically overruled by Gaddafi’s forces which have very anachronistic Soviet-made weapons of the 60s. Libyan forces prevail over NATO forces, and they successfully use very old Soviet produced defense systems; basically, NATO aircrafts can do nothing against them, and this is a new turn in the art of war – it is one thing. The second thing is that in Russia there is a very difficult ambivalent reaction to how the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is implemented by NATO. Once again, like the case during the war in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Bosnia, NATO considers itself in power to use force and to enter into a civil war, although there is nothing like that in the text of the resolution. That is why all the calls of Muammar Gaddafi to Russia and China to try to adopt a new and more precise resolution. Once again, like it was the case in Bosnia, when with the help of Moscow we adopted the resolution by Chapter 7 of the United Nation Charter, which United States and other NATO countries interpreted like automatic permission to use force, while Moscow claimed that the use of force should be accounted for by a specifically adopted resolution, and it has been never done. Like today in the Resolution 1973, the text of which says only about the protection of civilian population and no-fly zones, but what actually the NATO troops are doing, they entered into the civil war on the side of the rebels, which is very strange and which should never be permitted by the UN Security Council. The military experts in Russia think that NATO is losing this battle.
Do we have any idea of who the rebels are?
There have been so many western delegations, even Senator McCain visited them, but I think it is a compilation of forces; even some former Muammar Gaddafi’s ministers, who took part in some bloody massacres against the opposition in the previous years, are now members of this rebel coalition. The problem for Russia is what happens if the rebels prevail and what kind of regime we are going to have in Libya, whether it would not be a regime where the Islamist fundamentalist forces or even al-Qaeda could have some decisive role, which is very dangerous. Frankly speaking, even the Western intelligent community has very vague notion of who is actually fighting on the other side. Of course, we cannot call them civilian population because, probably, sometimes they are on equal footing with Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
As I have been talking to some western analysts, they were telling me that the situation has obviously run into a stalemate.
I think that Mr. Gaddafi is aware that if he is out it, he is in great danger, because he could follow the fate of Saddam Hussein, who was, of course, a bloody dictator; for Gaddafi there is no way out if he does not immigrate to another Arab Muslim country. But it is not quite a stalemate: Gaddafi’s forces are stronger, and he is ready for the dialog, he is ready to let in the western companies, which already have been there, in the country, and controlled most of its oil and gas resources. But this is rebuffed by the Western side; it is evident that some NATO countries just want to topple Gaddafi’s regime, which, of course, can never be the goal of any resolution adopted by the UN Security Council. There is a certain concern in the Russian Foreign Ministry and in the Kremlin regarding this resolution, and we understand that some Western-European politicians are trying to use it as a reelection campaign instrument, but killing innocent people is not the best solution.
Do I get you right that the party which is fueling unrest and which is fueling further bloodshed is, in fact, the opposition which is supported by the West? Is my understanding correct?
Of course, Gaddafi committed many bloody crimes against his own people, but more or less both sides are on the same footing. Sometimes in a civil war it is very difficult to say who is right and who is wrong. It is like in Bosnia: probably the Serbian side started it all, but it is now recognized that basically they all committed the military crimes. Now, of course, we can say that the rebels, the military revolutionary forces, what we see and what we witness, is some kind of popular uprising against dictatorship, and it was partly recognized in the Kremlin, that is why Russia has never blocked this resolution, just abstained. At the same time what NATO is doing is interfering into domestic affairs of the sovereign country, and we all remember that Gaddafi was a good friend of the same European leaders just a year before, when he committed the same kind of crimes. It is inappropriate, it should be stopped. Probably, it would be very interesting if Russia and China would try to stroll in with a new thrust for a new revolution with more precise clauses, which would prescribe what you do with the use of force and what are the criteria for this use of force.
Do you still believe that the positions of the opposition and of the Libyan government might be modified eventually to bring the whole situation to ceasefire?
I am not in Libya, and it is very difficult to assess things being in Moscow. What is the precise composition of the rebel forces and what we see on CNN and other TV channels is some kind of riff-raff coalition, so many different forces participate in it. Basically, we do not know who is behind them, we do not know what the sources are financing them. For example, we all know that the Muslim Brotherhood was quite active in the Egyptian revolution, but they cleverly stood in the backstage and nobody saw them. Probably, it is the same case here, we just ignore it. But I think that it would be just impossible for NATO to win, that Gaddafi’s grip on the country is still strong enough and that the opposition controls only Benghazi stronghold and some eastern parts of Libya. What could be a very wise solution, at least temporarily, is a ceasefire which could be imposed internationally by some kind of United Nations mediator. In any case, it is better than killing innocent people.
Libya in stalemate
Kudashkina Ekaterina May 5.
AUDIO © Collage: The Voice of Russia
Interview with Dr. Neil Melvin of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute.
How would you assess the present situation in Libya?
My assessment is that there is a kind of stalemate now. The UN mandate is provided NATO-led forces with a position, when they can largely protect the civilian population, but they are not able to end this civil war. So we have a stalemate, when pro-Gaddafi forces are able to maintain a constant threat, which occasionally is the threat to all civilians, while NATO forces are able to sufficiently help the rebels to overcome Gaddafi’s forces. Now there is something of an impasse for the both sides, which leads to a difficult situation.
The opposition also seems to be playing a large role in negotiations, but what kind of people are they?
The rebels are rather loose grouping of some former people who defected from Gaddafi’s regime, some civilians who just became a part of the military force. So this is not a very cohering group, which is trying to construct a military force and, of course, there is a political council behind that. Most of them are from particular geographical region, from those areas outside Tripoli, and they are also from particular social groups; inside Libya there are some tribes that are still loyal to Colonel Gaddafi and others who joined the rebels. It is a very unbalanced situation, because all the debates about the ceasefire reflect the relative power of different forces, and Gaddafi still has stronger military force compare to the rebels. The rebels understand that the ceasefire without the departure of Gaddafi would just allow the Gaddafi forces to regroup and consolidate, that is why they insist upon Colonel Gaddafi departing before they consider any kind of peace discussions.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Juppé, said that ousting Gaddafi is not the aim of the operation.
Ousting Gaddafi is not the aim of the UN operation, it is about the protection of civilians, but, of course, there is a great area, and if the actions of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces are affecting civilians, then it is due to a very broad interpretation of protection of civilians; that might also include trying to destroy the command structures, which might include Colonel Gaddafi. Up to now we have not had that interpretation, there has been no policy to hang down Colonel Gaddafi and kill him, but there are activists who are trying to destroy command and control structures, and if Colonel Gaddafi happens to be in one of those, then they will argue that the structures themselves are legitimate targets.
After the killing of several of his relatives do you think the situation is going to deteriorate or perhaps the government forces could be demoralized?
A little while ago there were some signs of defection from Colonel Gaddafi’s forces to the rebels, but that seems now to stabilize again. I think that what we have is actually a stalemate, and we have to see whether there is some kind of change now, what if there is an opportunity for third party negotiations, if there is someone to try to take this forward. But it is very hard to see how there can be a peace agreement without the departure of Colonel Gaddafi, that is my own interpretation anyway. The rebels won’t agree to it until the moment Colonel Gaddafi seems to be willing to depart from Libya.
Gaddafi called for war with Italy
AUDIO Muammar Gaddafi. Photo: EPA
Interview with Clara O’Donnell, research fellow at the Center for European reform in London.
In a speech, delivered at the Libyan state TV, Gaddafi said that he could not prevent war with Italy since Libyans wanted it. How do you think the situation is going to develop?
This is a disconcerting remark as Gaddafi is encouraging the Libyan citizens to undertake attack on Italian soil or elsewhere. This is clearly going to be very disconcerting to the Italians, but also to the other NATO allies which are currently involved in the military operation in Libya.
The Italian Defense Minister insisted that NATO air strikes were absolutely necessary to continue applying pressure on the Gaddafi regime. Do you agree with this position?
It really seems to be that the counties, which are taking part in the operation, do believe that for the mission to succeed, air strikes are the way for it, and they seem very committed to continue that, but it might be that even air strikes will not succeed in convincing Gaddafi to give up power.
US President Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have agreed to increase military pressure on Gaddafi’s forces. How do you think the international community will increase the pressure on the Gaddafi regime and provide additional support to the Transitional National Council?
This is a key question for all the governments involved into the operation. There is quite significant reluctance amongst the Europeans, the Americans to escalate the military actions, very significant, for example, things like ground forces and other matters, the governments do not want to go in. And there is a question mark – how much more can be done through the air bombing? For the military it means that there are some questions what else they can do. There has been a lot of talk about trying to provide more financial assistance to the rebel forces, military assistance as providing the rebels with weapons. So, at the moment we have been looking at financial assistance of the rebels and meanwhile trying to find additional diplomatic and economic ways to put pressure on Gaddafi’s regime.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes the possible ground military campaign can be soon sanctioned with the UN Security Council. And what are your predictions?
I think that for the near future ground forces are very unlikely, because there is a lot of reluctance among the Europeans and the Americans to pursue that avenue, and also they do not think that Russia, China or other countries would agree to the sanctions of the UN. So, for the moment it is a very unlikely option.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking during a news conference in Copenhagen, made several strong statements, criticizing NATO operation in Libya, saying that the North African state has been illegally destroyed by so-called civilized society. Can you comment on that?
Russia has been feeling very uncomfortable about the way the military operation has been conducted in Libya for the last few weeks. And that is because of concern, such as you mentioned, that a lot of the allies, which are currently involved in the operation, are very reluctant to pursue any form of significant military escalation in Libya, because they know that the international community would disapprove it, and they know that it would be incredibly hard to pass the UN.
Putin also suggested that Libya’s waste oil resources could be the main object of interest to those operating there. And what is your opinion?
This is a view that has been expressed by Russia and several other countries. May be what is more interesting, at least from the British and French position, they clearly were in the weak turning up to the operation as some serious conscience about what would be the humanitarian fall-out of Gaddafi’s charge towards Benghazi. The British government cannot sense the extent to which oil concern would have formed part of the calculation, but it is not the only issue on their mind. Humanitarian concerns definitely were on the list of justifications as to why European and American governments should try to intervene.
How do you think, does NATO aim to physically destroy Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?
The official mandate for the UN sanction mission for the moment is to protect civilians and to avoid them being harmed by the Gaddafi’s forces, not the explicit aim of the mission to overthrow Gaddafi himself. At the same time several European leaders have said that they believed the only way for Libya is to Gaddafi to agree to leave power and to allow elections to take place.