The Arab Spring was not a natural climate for Russian influence to thrive in, but the NATO stalemate in Libya and regional qualms about international action on Syria “leave them feeling they have more flexibility and an opportunity to build up their influence,” Mr. Saunders says. “They know that a lot of countries in the region would prefer to see negotiated settlements.”
On Thursday, Russia’s envoy to Libya, Mikhail Margelov, met in Tripoli with Libya’s prime minister and foreign minister. Mr. Margelov appeared to achieve no breakthroughs, but he emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, saying Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi “is not prepared to leave, and …will talk about the country’s future only after a cease-fire.”
Also this week, Russia and China issued a joint declaration berating unspecified nations for “the willful interpretation and expanded application” of two resolutions on Libya the Security Council approved earlier this year. The statement, signed in Moscow by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, reflected the two UN-veto-wielding powers’ displeasure with NATO’s air campaign in Libya.