Friday, October 31, 2008

Gaddafi goes to Moscow

Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is paying a visit to Moscow this weekend, his first since the days of the Soviet Union, in another sign of growing ties between Russia and the North African country.

Gaddafi's trip follows one made by Vladimir Putin to Libya last April where Russia forgave billions of dollars worth of Libyan debt going back to the Soviet-era in return for billions of dollars of new contracts with Russian companies, including one to build a 300-mile railroad across the desert. More deals are expected during Gaddafi's visit, probably including billions of dollars worth of upgrades to the Libyan military, which is stocked almost exclusively with Soviet-made equipment. Then there are the rumored deals…

They include helping Libya build nuclear power plants and a possible agreement for the Russian navy to establish a base at the Libyan port of Benghazi. Russia has been looking to establish a presence in the Mediterranean Sea recently and has also been working with the Syrian government to renovate an old Soviet base in the port of Tartus for use by the Russian Navy.

Speaking of the Russian Navy and the Mediterranean, a naval task force from Russia's Northern Fleet will soon set sail for the Med to conduct joint operations with ships from their Black Sea Fleet sometime in November. The flagship for the Northern Fleet will be the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. Once in the Med, the two fleets will engage in a mock combat exercise and visit several ports, including a stop at Messina in Sicily.

A second Russian task force is already en route to Venezuela where it will conduct operations in the Caribbean Sea with the Venezuelan Navy, also in November. The recent contact with Libya shows that not only is Russia trying to step up its military profile around the world, but it is also trying to build ties (or rebuild) ties with nations in Africa.
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