December 03, 2019

Don’t Let Russia Dominate Libya

Originally published in The Wall Street Journal

A Kremlin-backed strongman in Tripoli would be a disaster for U.S. interests.


American interests are under attack in Libya, whether we realize it or not. Adversaries and allies alike are attempting to install a dictator. In doing so, they’re undermining U.S. credibility and challenging American leadership of the international order.

Hundreds—maybe thousands—of Russian mercenaries joined the battle for Tripoli, Libya’s capital, this fall, fighting alongside aspiring strongman Khalifa Haftar. Russia’s primary interest isn’t Libya, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Vladimir Putin interpreted the Arab Spring, and particularly the NATO intervention that led to the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, as Western threats to the survival of his autocratic regime. His interventions in Syria and now Libya are attempts to shore up faltering strongmen. Mr. Putin wants to put a new Gadhafi in power to show that revolutions are doomed to fail and that he, not the U.S. or NATO, is an effective power broker in the region.

Mr.  Putin aims to undermine America’s post-Cold War leadership of the international order by casting the West as hypocritical and building an alliance system of like-minded autocrats. (China’s rise, and its development of technology that strengthens other autocracies, compounds this trend.) The U.S. has only worsened the situation by appearing to be an unreliable ally—to the Kurds in Syria and to the Libyan forces who fought ISIS with U.S. support but now face Mr. Haftar’s airstrikes.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal