U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) assesses that Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground there.
Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC that is supporting the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) fight against the internationally recognised Government of National Accord. The Russian fighter aircraft – 4 x MIG 29 Fulcrum and 2 x Su 35 Flanker arrived in Libya after departing the Hmeimim Air Base in Syria.
“Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya. Just like I saw them doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way. Neither the LNA nor private military companies can arm, operate and sustain these fighters without state support — support they are getting from Russia.”
Russia has employed state sponsored Wagner in Libya to conceal its direct role and to afford Moscow plausible deniability of its malign actions. U.S. Africa Command assesses Moscow’s military actions have prolonged the Libyan conflict and exacerbated casualties and human suffering on both sides. “The world heard Haftar declare he was about to unleash a new air campaign. That will be Russian mercenary pilots flying Russian supplied aircraft to bomb Libyans,” Townsend said. AFRICOM assesses that Russia is not interested in what is best for the Libyan people but are working to achieve their own strategic goals instead.
“If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa. “If that day comes, it will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank.”
Russia’s destabilizing actions in Libya will also exacerbate the regional instability that has driven the migration crisis affecting Europe.
Featured image is of a pair of Russian Air Force aircraft taking off Malta back in 2006.
Watermarked Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com
Published – Wednesday 27th May, 2020