Russia Seeks to Focus UN Attention on Smuggled Libyan Missiles

October 18, 2011, 1:58 PM EDT
By Flavia Krause-Jackson

Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) — Russia, a critic of NATO’s bombing campaign in Libya, has drafted a United Nations resolution that draws attention to a dangerous consequence of the conflict — weapons smuggled out of the country for possible sale to terrorists.

Russia’s reason for highlighting the risk of Muammar Qaddafi’s arsenal falling into the wrong hands may reflect its anger at how NATO’s involvement in Libya has unfolded. The text has been given only to the five veto-wielding members of the 15- member Security Council, said council diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S., Britain and France pressed for a UN resolution authorizing a Libya no-fly zone, while Russia and China abstained from the March vote that allowed “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from Qaddafi’s forces. It did not call for toppling Qaddafi.

“The Russians have been furious with the way that UN Security Resolution 1973 was implemented,” said Robert Danin, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern and African studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “They now want to highlight the dangers resulting from Libya’s regime change and draw attention to the unintended consequences of the West’s actions.”

The disintegration of Qaddafi’s four-decade dictatorship has created a business opportunity for looters trafficking in weapons taken from military stockpiles, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles.

Trafficked Weapons

U.S. officials have said there is evidence that some shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles have made their way across the border to Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb is active. Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, said weapons have been smuggled from Libya to Sudan, where insurgents in the western Darfur region have been fighting since 2003.

Since the Libyan resolution in the Security Council, the U.S. and Europe have failed to convince Russia and China to again withhold their vetoes in a resolution condemning a seven- month crackdown on anti-government protesters in Syria. The most powerful UN body has also failed to take action on Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has refused to sign a power- transfer agreement.

“One should not underestimate the degree to which Russian cooperation in other international issues will be made more difficult because their dissatisfaction with the Libyan intervention,” said Danin. “To them, the West used the pretext of a humanitarian intervention to pursue regime change. They will not forget this for a long time.”

Leave a Reply