Faced with Western embargo, Kremlin disinformation says NATO after Libyan oil

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On April 12, Russian state-owned Sputnik Arabic News said it interviewed Salimah Abdullah Gaddafi, identified as the first female bodyguard of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Sputnik said Gaddafi’s former bodyguard spoke about NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011, which followed the United Nations’ authorization of military action and a zone of air exclusion in response to the Gaddafi regime’s brutal crackdown on protests that evolved into an armed rebellion against him.

Sputnik did not provide any photos or other information about Salimah Abdullah Gaddafi. However, he cited a video circulating on social media of the late Libyan dictator speaking to his supporters about what he called NATO’s ‘greedy’ interests in Russia and how they were similar to his ‘greedy’ interests. in Libya.

“Why is NATO marching towards Russia? The objectives of NATO are the same objectives of Napoleon and Hitler, it is to reach gas, gasoline, coal and iron in Russia and to occupy Russia. It’s very clear,” Gaddafi says in the video. “They are occupying Libya for its oil and gasoline.”

Sputnik quoted Gaddafi’s ex-bodyguard as saying: “Everyone knows what the crusade alliance [NATO] done and done again. Long ago, I heard Gaddafi predicting the conflict that is unfolding today between NATO and Russia.

The Sputnik report misleadingly describes NATO’s mission in Libya at the time. Moreover, the implication that NATO is after the oil reserves of Libya and Russia is unfounded.

Libya has the ninth largest oil reserves in the world, the largest in Africa. Historically, Europe has been the country’s biggest customer. The Sputnik story comes as European countries, which are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, seek to embargo Russian oil as punishment for attacking Ukraine.

On April 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that banning Russian energy imports would hurt the global economy and blamed European countries for driving up energy prices.

Putin spoke after the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted damage to Russian energy exports would start to hit hard in May. In addition to Western sanctions, China is expected to reduce its demand for Russian energy products, and OPEC Plus oil-producing nations led by Saudi Arabia will likely increase production, the IEA said.

Toril Bosni, head of the IEA’s oil market division, told Bloomberg News that domestic demand in Russia has fallen and international buyers are hesitant to buy Russian oil.

“Russian oil supply could fall by three million barrels a day from May,” Bosni said.

Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter and was selling some 7 billion barrels a day when the war started. Thus, a loss of 3 billion barrels per day would represent a drop of more than 40%. Oil and gas revenues accounted for 45% of Russia’s federal budget in 2021, according to the IEA.

The United States has already banned imports of oil, natural gas and coal from Russia. Britain has said it will phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, allowing time to find other suppliers.

For some European countries, however, sanctioning Russian gas and oil remains difficult. Russia supplies 40% of Europe’s natural gas and Europe buys half of Russia’s oil production.

Yet on April 7, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for punishment of Russia’s energy sector, including “an immediate full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.”

Russia has fueled anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East and Africa.

Regarding Libya, Russia’s ties to Gaddafi date back to the mid-1970s, when the country was one of the Soviet Union’s top customers for military equipment, according to Federica Saini Fasanotti of the Brookings Institution.

Gaddafi visited Moscow in 1985 and again in 2008 when Putin was prime minister. Then Putin was ready to write off $4.5 billion in Libyan debt as part of a trade deal. “Russia was also looking for strategic bases in the Mediterranean, and Gaddafi granted Moscow access to the port of Benghazi for his fleet,” Fasanotti wrote.

UN moves to contain Gaddafi’s violence threatened Russia’s trade ties with Libya, including a $2.2 billion rail project, and Russia abstained in vote on zone of 2011 air exclusion.

A decade on, Libya remains mired in a civil war, with Russia providing mercenaries to support strongman Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army against the Government of National Accord, which has received support from Turkey.

Control of Libyan oil remains at stake. Haftar’s control over major eastern oil fields has allowed him to stage an oil blockade in 2020. A ceasefire has been in place for 18 months, but an effort facilitated by the UN to organize elections in December failed. A political standoff persists.

Libya’s oil production is now around 1.3 million barrels a day, Reuters reported last month. The United States has proposed a financial mechanism to make the management of the country’s oil revenues more transparent while talks to resolve the political dispute continue.

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