Russia almost lost Libya // Or the whole Middle East could lose

Russia almost lost Libya // Or the whole Middle East could lose

“Italians should not let the Russians into Libya!” "Is the essence of the confidential documents written in April 2008 by the US Ambassador to Italy Ronald Spogli. Now, in the period of insidious struggle for lucrative contracts in an African country among foreign countries-winners, they somehow got into the editorial office of the Turin newspaper. In principle, there is nothing unexpected in these papers. Americans and a number of European countries are concerned about the energy security of the Old World and do not trust Russia. Especially now, when it is already clear who will sit in the Kremlin.

Reconstructing the Libyan scenario is very difficult - it is a mosaic not only with many missing, but also with fake elements. And still try to consider it in brief from the very beginning, from the era of colonization.


In 1911, the Italian kingdom captured the regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica during the war with the Ottoman Empire. The “big sandbox”, as the average Italian usually called Libya, became in the times of fascism the “fourth coast” where the regime sent its migrants. At that time, no one knew about the large reserves of energy resources found in the 1950's, and the settlers complained about poor soil.

After World War II, the Americans and the British opened two bases in independent Libya to better control the Mediterranean Sea. And since the coup organized by Muammar Gaddafi in 1969, in stories Livia begins troubled times. Following the example of Joseph Stalin in the Caucasus and the Crimea, the colonel organized ethnic cleansing - he expelled thousands of ordinary Italian citizens of his country of origin 20 from their homes in October 1970. Imagine that the Baltic republics in the fall of 1991 would have landed on trains and sent all their inhabitants with Slavic roots to the east. A couple of years ago in Melbourne, I was literally numb when I met an Italian old woman. Answering my question, where is she from, granny said: “From Tripoli, but I can’t go back there! ". For an Italian, this is the same as if you had met with Russians who left Alaska a few decades ago ...

Gaddafi stayed in power for so long, because he brilliantly played a card with local tribes inside the country, and in the international arena played on the contradictions between political blocs and states. He was a convenient ruler for all, despite the fact that his friends-enemies constantly tried to remove him in one way or another.

What intrigues, what state secrets, what horrible secrets are connected with Gaddafi! And how much dirt and blood! The international public knows everything about American air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi 15 April 1986. A completely different question - with the tragedy in the sky over the island of Ustica (Sicily) 27 June 1980. Then the plane of the Italian company "Itaviya" was shot down by a rocket during an aerial battle. In 20 days, the Libyan MiG-23 was found in the Calabrian mountains. After 31 a year, last September, the Italian Tribunal sentenced two of our ministries to pay 100 million euros to the 81 families of the deceased because they hid and falsified evidence. The records of NATO radars, the Italian military and civilian agencies of that day simply disappeared somewhere. And those who were behind the monitors that day “don't remember anything.”

The investigative judge Rosario Priore found out that on the day of the tragedy the American aircraft carrier Saratoga was in the Gulf of Naples, and the French, Clemenceau, was not far from the Sicilian coast. Rumors published in the press suggest that Gaddafi was due to return home that evening after the meeting in Warsaw.

In 2007, the former Italian president of Cossig confirmed the theory of aerial combat: the Bologna-Palermo 870 flight was mistakenly hit by a missile fired by a French fighter who was following a Libyan colonel's plane. And the latter suddenly disappeared behind “Itavia”. Of course, Cossiga did not provide any evidence. There are other rumors that Gaddafi warned of imminent danger from Rome ...

The relationship between the isolated African dictator and Italy has always been peculiar. Libyans traditionally invested and continue to invest huge money (billions of dollars) in the shares of the most influential Italian companies. At the same time, causing the jealousy of other countries, Tripoli gave the Italian corporation ENI permission to develop its strategic oil and gas fields.

In this case, with Gaddafi, Italy constantly had funny and delicate situations. For example, his son Saadi played football in the Italian “Series A”. The aerobatic team "sprayed" the Italian flag (as a symbol of the former colonialists and occupiers) in the skies over Tripoli during the parade in honor of the 40 anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Once a colonel gave a lecture on the superiority of Islam to two hundred Italian girls in Rome (in the center of the Christian world). In general, none of his stay on the Apennine Peninsula was complete without scandals, and a relative of Duce, Alessandra Mussolini (she is a member of parliament), never missed an opportunity to publicly insult Gaddafi, calling him a camel driver.

Why Rome endured a colonel for so long is easy to understand. Italians historically do not trust the foreign policy of Great Britain and France (especially in Africa). Already in 1950-ies, Enrico Mattei, the founder of ENI, understood the importance of energy for state security and tried to reduce Italy’s dependence on oil produced mainly by American companies. That is why, and not for some ideological reasons, then our specialists began to work in the USSR. If during your “cold war” the best experts worked in the KGB or in the “boxes”, and in the US they worked at the State Department or at NASA, then we have at ENI.

Who started Western air strikes in Libya in March of this year, not even waiting for the official position of NATO after the UN resolution 1973? How strange: the French! It seems that Paris and Gaddafi had some problems unknown to the rest. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain such activity of the Elysian Palace, which indirectly made it clear to the Chinese that they should calm down with their expansion in Africa. Italy also provided its military base of the coalition, and ENI - gasoline rebels.

In September, Cameron and Sarkozy celebrated the victory of the Transitional National Council (PNS) in Benghazi. Pavel Scaroni also visited Libya. For some countries, the visit of the Director General of ENI is more important than the arrival of the Italian Minister. So here. PNS confirmed Scaroni compliance with all contracts. In another way, in fact, could not be. At the same time, it is impossible not to notice that Gazprom Neft received its stake in the Elephant project through ENI.

Russia in April, 2008, wrote off Gaddafi’s debts and exchanged them for some lucrative contracts for their companies. Some of the agreements are military, and it is unlikely to be respected by the new government of Tripoli. Also, because of its position throughout the civil conflict of 2011, Moscow will most likely find itself without clear allies in Libya and among the winners.


However, the big Libyan game is just beginning. So far, ENI has a superiority in the energy sector (which, as early as 2006, signed an agreement on international strategic partnership with Gazprom). The French, British and Americans, on the contrary, look not so much at the present, as at the enormous future possibilities of this African country. Experts suggest that its energy reserves are ten times more than expected. If this is true, then Libya will become for Europe a real alternative supplier in competition with the East. That is the reason for Washington’s reluctance to see Russians in Tripoli. But reluctance is one thing, but what about reality?

In reality, in order to win future international tenders in Libya, it is necessary first of all to guarantee quality and reliability. And in these matters, Russian companies often had problems. One word: competitiveness. Popular in your country stories that, they say, no one loves Russia, in fact, fiction. With the globalization of spheres of influence no longer exists. Just to win, you have to be the best.

Western analysts are now trying to understand what Russia's foreign policy in the Middle East is and its attitude towards the Arab Spring. So far this is not very clear. Many are surprised by the mistakes that Russia makes - first in Libya, and now in Syria. It is clear that Damascus was traditionally an ally of Moscow. But the world is changing fast. And in the West there is already an opinion that we are witnessing the “decline of Russia” in the Middle East region. And her place is ready to take an incredibly foreign active Turkey.
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