In contrast with its assertiveness in Syria, Russia’s role in most conflicts in the MENA region consists of proclaiming its non-alignment and keeping all actors content. Moscow does not shy away from casting itself as a true power-broker in the region. It acts as an allegedly impartial mediator that gets along with all actors and respects each country's sovereignty, while trying to find a middle ground, or at least facilitate dialogue, between the stakeholders it deems reliable and important enough.
Despite the existence of global and regional formats for discussing ways to resolve the Libyan conflict, national reconciliation has not been achieved for eight years. This is largely due to the lack of necessary conditions and the existence of conflict at the local, regional and global levels. Russian influence on Libyan events is often exaggerated. Moreover, the media likes to raise this topic, because it allows the various parties to the conflict to divert attention away from the real problems and lack of agreement between the main players fighting for leadership in the Libyan issue.
Eight years of a bloody conflict, over 5.6 million refugees mostly spread across Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, an estimated $250 billion – according to the United Nations – to rebuild a devastated country, an exhausted population: Syria is undeniably the most consuming crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), whose consequences will long reverberate on the entire region.
Russia’s “return” to the MENA region did not go unnoticed in Brussels. EU-Russia relations, currently at a historic low mainly due to the conflict in Ukraine, found in the MENA region new sources of disagreement as well as potential avenues for cooperation. This situation is likely to remain unchanged in 2020 as elements of friction – especially in Syria – will persist, while some developments may make Russia and the EU converge on a number of issues.
As 2019 comes to close, Russian mercenaries are allegedly shifting the balance of forces in Libya, helping General Haftar to reignite his efforts to take Tripoli.
Five years after the annexation of Crimea, European sanctions, and the war in Donbas, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine finally met to outline a peace agreement: the future of the region – and of the continent – hangs in the balance.
As the first-ever Russia-Africa summit made headlines around the world in the past few weeks, the comparison between the Russian and the Chinese approach to Africa was recurrent. It originated in the fact that both China and Russia are not Western countries, both have seemingly ‘returned’ to Africa in the 21st century for economic and political reasons, both advocate a non-interference approach in the internal affairs of other countries and both are perceived as great powers in international relations.