Military intervention in Libya: perspectives from China, Russia and India

China, Russia and India abstained on UN Security Council Resolution No. 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone over Libya and the use of force to protect civilians. As military intervention in Libya enters its sixth day, what are the Chinese, Russian and Indian views and reactions?


Officially-sanctioned views, as reflected in the People’s Daily, lambast the military intervention in Libya and cast it as a Western initiative.

  • How humanitarian is Western intervention in Libya?” asks one op-ed. “This so-called ‘humanitarianism’ is actually just the first step toward overthrowing of another country’s political power.”
  • They point to Libya’s oil resources as the underlying motive. “The military involvement of Western coalitions in the Middle East is closely associated with oil reserves and strategic interests. Iraq was invaded for oil. Now it is Libya.
  • It is noteworthy that the criticism is generally directed at the “West,” and not specifically at the United States, since “the U.S. withdrew to the second line this time.” The U.S. position is understood to be “a compromise between the realism of the secretary of defense and the idealism of the secretary of state.”

The way to act responsibly, on the other hand, is to follow China’s example, says the People’s Daily. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China voted in favor of sanctions on Libya but “did not block” the resolution on a no-fly zone because it took into consideration the positions of Arab countries and the African Union. “China once again insisted on consistent principles and showed the image of a responsible country.”


Much attention in Russia is on the apparent split between President Dmitry Medvedev and Premier Vladmir Putin over the Libyan crisis. Putin had called the military intervention in Libya a “medieval crusade,” and said that U.S. militarism had become a steady trend. Medvedev dismissed Putin’s language as “unacceptable,” and explained that the reason Russia did not veto the UN resolution was because it “broadly reflects our view of what is happening in Libya, although not across the board.”

This dispute between Medvedev and Putin, as well as Russia’s abstention on the UN resolution, have sparked heated debates over Russia’s role in global politics and the overall direction of its foreign policy.

General assessment of the military intervention also reflect diverse opinions. Alexei Arbatov, head of the International Security Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, worries that Iran, Syria and other countries proliferating weapons of mass destruction will now think that Gaddafi should not have given up his nuclear program several years ago. Lyudmila Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia’s oldest human rights organization, believes that the military strike, under the auspices of the UN, is “the right thing to do” because it will stop the civil war in Libya.

Commentary in India generally supports the country’s abstention on the UN resolution, while opinion of the military intervention ranges from worry and skepticism to outright denunciation.

About risingpowers
Sigur Center for Asian Studies Elliott School of International Affairs The George Washington University

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