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Saturday, 26 March 2011 14:03

Russian Politicians and Citizens Against Foreign Aggression in Libya

GadBurnOutBy Kester Kenn Klomegah

MOSCOW, March 25, 2011 (Buziness Africa)- Russia, China and India have joined the African Union and the Arab League in denouncing the Western-led attack on Libya as disproportionate and indiscriminate which they said was being conducted with reference to the hastily adopted UN Security Council resolution.

Russia's head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky said "the situation in Libya is yet another shocking act of aggression by NATO forces and in particular by the United States. This is a clear reflection of colonial policy. This is another crude invasion into the domestic affairs of an independent state. There is only one goal: to take control of Libyan oil and the Libyan regime and not saving the Libyan people."


He sent an official letter to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen demanding the immediate stop to the military operation in Libya. A military operation against Libya's strongman Gaddafi, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years.


Ten of the Security Council's 15 members voted in favor of the resolution, with Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstaining.The resolution was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Lebanon and the United States.


Professor Dmitry Bondarenko, a deputy director at the Moscow based Institute of African Studies said hardly oil business is the only and even most important reason for this position of Russia. By the president declaring Gaddafi persona-non-grata and not vetoing the UN resolution, the Russian government has already spoiled the relations with Gaddafi.


"I think Russia wants to demonstrate once again that it is independent in its position from the West, that it should be associated with it, always seen as an independent player on the world stage, especially when the third world countries are concerned (in Soviet time, Russia created its image as a friend who protected third world countries from the aggressive imperialist West)," Bondarenko told Buziness Africa.


StopLibyaHe added that "the consequences of the military operation can be negative for its participating countries image in some states and social starta in the third world, and Russia can avoid this negative effect for her by not supporting the operation openly. At the same time, by not vetoing the resolution, Russia, de facto, indirectly sanctioned the military operation. So, I think Russia's position is well thought-off and favourable."


President Dmitry Medvedev considers the UN Security Council resolution 1973 to be a wrong one. Russia endorsed the first UN Security Council resolution and abstained from voting on the second resolution. That was done consciously to prevent an escalation of violence.


"I think that this resolution on the whole reflects our understanding of the situation in Libya, but not to the full extent, which is why we did not use our right of veto, but as you understand, this was a qualified refusal, proceeding from the consequences that were quite clear. It would be wrong to say that we had no idea what to do", Medvedev said.


Medvedev further suggested that one should be as careful as possible when assessing events in other countries. For instance, he explained that it is unacceptable to use terms such as "crusades" and the like - that is unacceptable - that will essentially lead to a collision of civilisations.


The situation in Libya was caused by the crimes made by the country's leadership against its own people. "Everything that is happening in Libya was caused by the outrageous behavior of the Libyan leadership and the crimes that were committed against its own people. This should not be forgotten, all the rest is the consequence," he said.


Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also weighed in to liken the UN Security Council resolution on Libya to a medieval crusader's call to arms against a sworn enemy.


"The Security Council resolution is deficient and flawed, it allows everything and is reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade. It effectively allows intervention in a sovereign state," Putin told workers at a ballistic missile factory in the Urals region.


"This U.S. policy is becoming a stable trend," Putin said, recalling the U.S. airstrikes on Belgrade under Bill Clinton and Afghanistan and Iraq under the two Bush administrations.


"Now it's Libya's turn - under the pretext of protecting civilians. Where is the logic and conscience? There is neither. The ongoing events in Libya confirm that Russia is right to strengthen her defense capabilities," he added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a widely circulated local Russian newspaper has published a report that an overwhelming majority of Russians disapprove of international airstrikes against Libya, the country's public opinion centers reported three days after Vladimir Putin likened the attacks to crusades, Buziness Africa monitored here in Moscow.


Russian recruitment agency, SuperJob, said 78% of respondents condemned the international coalition's actions and only 5% supported the strikes. Russia's national pollster VTsIOM put these figures at 64% and 20%, respectively. More than half of Russians, 56%, believe their country should stay neutral on the Libya issue.


The Levada Center conducted the survey shortly before the airstrikes began. Respondents were asked to select measures they would approve to stop the bloodshed in Libya and protect civilians. Around 12% of respondents indicated freezing Gaddafi's accounts and imposing a foreign travel ban on him and his entourage; 13% supported economic sanctions against Gaddafi's regime; 10% backed a no-fly zone; and only 7% a ground operation.


"Russians have been condemning the use of force against other countries for the past 20 years," said Levada Center head Lev Gudkov.


On the other hand, 51% are indifferent to Libya, probably due to a lack of awareness.


LibyaProtest"This does not only reflect Russians' non-aggressiveness, but also the emotions they experienced during airstrikes on Yugoslavia," said Alexander Oslon, head of the FOM public opinion foundation. "That was an enormous culture shock for them, amounting to a turning point in many Russians’ attitudes toward the United States and the West."


Dmitry Furman from the Institute of Europe think tank pointed to an obvious similarity between the prime minister’s statements on Libya while visiting a Russian ballistic missile plant and the apparent public mood: "He is much closer to the people, psychologically, than President Dmitry Medvedev."


"He must be aware, deep down, that the regime he has been painstakingly building in Russia is much more similar to those in Libya or Egypt than he is prepared to admit. He certainly feels some empathy and fear that one day he might go the same way as Gaddafi," Furman said.


Putin's statement was perfectly in tune with the public mood, said Nikolai Petrov, a scholarly political researcher from the Carnegie Moscow Center.


"There is this stereotype dating back to the Soviet era: the Arab nations are proud and freedom-loving, while (Western) imperialists intervene in their internal affairs. This is a stereotype shared by 90% of Russians who believe that we, too, are capable of managing our own internal problems and do not want any foreign or international interference. In this respect, what Putin said and where he said it was in tune with his voters' sentiment. He always says what they expect to hear, unlike Medvedev, whose job is to signal to the West that they should not pay too much heed to what is being said for internal purposes," he said.


Representatives of youth movements have also staged pickets outside the embassies of the United States, Great Britain, France and the NATO mission in Moscow, demanding an end to the bombings in Libya. The demonstrators who condemned what they called the encroachment on Libya's sovereignty criticized the military intervention by Western countries as a recipe for further rancor and an aggravation of the crisis.


Russia did not vote for that resolution of the Security Council, but Professor Vladimir Shubin, a deputy director from of African Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences believes that it would be preferable if Russia vetoed it.


"It is obvious that the agressors use it as a pretext, and their actions go far beyond the protection of civilian population.Even the Arab League, the decision of which was used by the five NATO countries to begin the war has distanced itself from it. Moscow and Beijing did the same," he told IPS.


Shubin said that the developments in Libya were quite different from, say "At-Tahrir" square in Cairo. Even the so called "international mass media" would speak about "civilian population" but then show well-armed mutineers. That was the beginning of a civil war and the Security Council resolution was adopted in violation of the UN Chapter. The fate of Gaddafi should be decided by the people of Libya and not by outsiders.


"Initally the agressors claimed that they would not do anything without the Arab League and the African Union. Then, it was alleged that a AU representative came to Paris, but it proved to be a lie. We can only feel sorry that the AU once again showed its weakness. The was no need for Gaddafi to promise Russia, China and India to have access to oil business. We have been there, just as Italy, Britain and many others. Much more important is the fact that all of BRIC countries stood together."


Last week, Gaddafi said he lost trust in all Western nations except Germany and that Libya would only invest in Russia, India and China. Libyan oil contracts will be given to Russian, Chinese and Indian companies, and the West will be forgotten.


The U.S. operation is named "Odyssey Dawn". Support for the opposition is not the goal of the allied forces' "Odyssey Dawn" operation in Libya. The aim of the allied forces' military operation is to protect the civilian population of Libya from attacks by government troops.


The western military operation in Libya will proceed in three stages. The first one which is now ongoing, envisions air and missile strikes on 31 targets, mainly air defense installations. Phase 2 will target two air force bases and Gaddafi's residence in Tripoli. In the final, third, stage the coalition plans to pound the Libyan armed forces. Unless Gaddafi meets the ultimatum, Libya will come under continous attack from the international coalition military forces. (END/2011)



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