Radio And Text: West Has Crossed The Rubicon On Libya
Voice of Russia
March 10, 2011
Interview with Rick Rozoff, a U.S. journalist covering NATO enlargement
The question at this point is to what extent NATO is prepared to intervene in the Libyan crisis. You know, the true moment of truth will be when a two-day summit of defense ministers, defense chiefs, of the 28 members of NATO meet in Brussels that will of course include US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his 27 counterparts and the other NATO member states.
They are to meet on 10th and 11th March, Thursday and Friday, and there is no question about what will be at the top of the agenda: it is going to be the question of Libya.
And we know from US permanent representative, ambassador, to NATO Ivo Daalder as of yesterday that NATO has announced that it will enforce 24-hours, around-the-clock aerial and naval surveillance of Libya that’s up from 10 hours previous to that.
Just in the last hour I saw that the foreign minister of Italy, Franco Frattini, made an announcement at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian parliament stating this: “We need to take action in reference to Libya.”
And he stated that his country would propose to an extraordinary meeting of the European Council that the European Union and NATO coordinate forces to enforce a naval blockade of Libya. So we are talking about a flight ban or no-fly zone which is going to be brought up in the UN Security Council by France and Germany in the first instance along with the United States.
Germany is currently on the Security Council and the other three Western countries are of course permanent members. Those four countries are what is sometimes referred to as the NATO Quad, the big four NATO powers, Britain, France, United States and Germany.
It appears at this point they are united in wanting to enforce a flight ban over Libya to keep the nation’s air force and aircraft in general grounded.
The comment I just mentioned by the foreign minister of Italy Frattini demonstrates that a naval blockade would complement or accompany that. I mean, this is really putting the Libyan nation under siege and clearly if there were actions of that sort taken against France, Britain, Germany and the United States it would be construed as an acts of war, which is effectively what they are. So I would argue we’re days, perhaps hours, away from a U.S.-NATO military operation against Libya; whether it entails bombing and destroying on the ground the Libyan air force and air defense and surveillance facilities and so on we can only speculate, but I think at this point it’s pretty clear that the West has crossed the Rubicon.
But it is not the first time the international community introduces a no-fly zone?
There are precedents for this as we know. One was instituted against Iraq starting in 1991 after the end of Operation Desert Storm and continued until 2003.
From 1992 to 1995 there were actually two no-fly zone operations run by NATO in Bosnia, particularly against the Bosnian Serb Republic. It was a very partisan effort.
And at the beginning of the war against Yugoslavia in 1999, a 78-day bombing campaign, a no-flight zone was established over that country.
The actual mechanics of getting UN Security Council approval or sanctioning for a no-fly zone is for nine or more of the fifteen members of the Security Council to approve it, and then for no permanent member of the Security Council to veto that resolution.
There are five permanent members – the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia – and ten non-permanent members. And to be honest with you, I haven’t looked at the rest of the current membership and I don’t know how the other ten would be likely to vote.
But with the permanent members it’s going to break down predictably into Western NATO nations – the U.S., Britain and France – in favor of the flight ban and other military measures against Libya with China and Russia presumably voting against, and of course with the latter two countries in a position to veto the resolution if it’s passed by nine or more other countries.
Do I get it right that introducing a no-fly zone will not contribute much to containing violence on the ground?
The formal or diplomatic explanation for why a flight ban is effected against a country – this is an expression we hear more and more since Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, is once again obligingly accommodating the West (the U.S. and Western Europe), pushing the concept of what’s called the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).
And this was used of course in Iraq in 1991. No-fly zones included that in the Northern Iraqi ethnic Kurdish areas of the country and so forth. The argument presented by the major Western powers, which are always those who introduce and lobby for no-fly zones, is that it protects civilians on the ground against – as we hear in the language from American, Western European, and NATO officials recently, employing the term – crimes against humanity. The other terms are of course genocide and war crimes – they are all borrowed from the Nuremberg Tribunal.
And we remember that these expressions were used in the Balkans in the 1990s inevitably to further, I would argue, NATO political and geopolitical ambitions in Southeast Europe.
In theory, again, no-fly zones protect civilians against military attacks by the government and in fact that’s what the Western parties are going to claim in Libya. They are going to claim that military forces loyal to Gaddafi are perpetrating massacres and even genocide against the Libyan people. And that’s the pretext, I believe it’s largely a pretext, but that will be the formal explanation for why they are enforcing a flight ban.