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Although Russia had previously taken a tough stance against the intervention of NATO forces in Libya to support the rebels, the special envoy for the Russian President is expected to arrive today in Benghazi, the headquarters of the Libyan rebels. What is the meaning of this?

The answer simply is that Moscow, as history testifies, will take hard-line positions whenever there is a crisis in our region, however it will soon return to play politics, as they say. In the end, the Russians are acting out of their interests, just as they did with Jamal Abdul Nasser, Saddam Hussein, and others in the region. Moscow has not protected one of its Arab allies, nor has it prolonged the life of their regimes. All Moscow usually does is abstain from voting in the Security Council, which is what it did with regards to Libya recently. However, we are now witnessing the arrival of the presidential envoy in Benghazi, the stronghold of the Libyan rebels, in order to meet with members of the Libyan Transitional National Assembly, whilst the Russian envoy has announced that he will not visit Tripoli, Gaddafi’s headquarters!

This should draw attention to the fact that Moscow will always act out of self interest, it will not rush to save a drowning man who refuses to help himself. This matter is significant today, particularly with regards to the debate revolving around Moscow’s position, and of course that of China too, and whether they will prevent the passing of a resolution in the Security Council against the Syrian regime. All the facts suggest that they will not use their veto if the Syrian file is referred to the Security Council, especially as the crisis in Syria is continuing without any real solutions offered by the Syrian regime, at least solutions that will appease the masses, or even surprise them, as the Turkish Foreign Minister has said before. The most that Moscow will do, as well as China, is abstain from voting in the Security Council against Syria, then afterwards they will deal with the reality on the ground, as happened in Libya, where the Russian President, following his country’s initial hard-line position, has returned to call for Gaddafi to step down from power!

It is suffice here to reflect on two contradictory news items that appeared over the past two days. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Saturday that NATO was unfortunately “sliding towards ground operations” in Libya, following the deployment of British and French combat helicopters for the first time. However, a statement issued by NATO yesterday revealed that fighter pilots from the Russian, Polish and Turkish air forces will participate in a NATO training exercise, lasting five days, carried out over Poland and the Black Sea, under the name “Vigilant Skies 2011”. This is the first time that Russian air forces have participated with NATO, the two being former Cold War foes, in a joint training operation to combat “terrorism”. These two news items tell the whole story of course!

Therefore, what is greatly needed today in the Arab world is to exercise “Vigilant minds 2011”, not “Vigilant Skies”, with reference to the Russian military exercises with NATO. We must consider what is going on around us, and recognize that Russia and China are only protecting their interests.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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