Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's call for the Libyan leader to step down is another marker of the success of the French-led effort to end a century of Russia-Western antagonism
Russia, a quasi-democracy and an imperial power that never quite gave up all of its colonial holdings, has dedicated much of its post-Soviet foreign policy to resisting everything that the NATO intervention in Libya stands for. It shrugs at human rights violators, abhors military intervention, enshrines the sovereign right of states to do whatever they want internally without fear of outside meddling, and above all objects to the West imposing its ideology on others. NATO itself, after all, is a military alliance constructed in opposition to the Soviet Union. But Russian President Dmitri Medvedev took a surprising break from Russian foreign policy precedent on Friday when, in the middle of a G8 summit in France, he declared that Libyan leader Muammar "Qaddafi has forfeited legitimacy" and that Russia plans "to help him go."
For Libya, Russia's call for Qaddafi to go is more than just symbolic. Russia abstained from the original UN Security Council resolution authorizing the no-fly zone, but was reportedly upset that NATO states stretched the resolution to launch an extended bombing campaign. Russia's angry reaction, it was widely assumed, meant it might outright veto any future Security Council measures on Libya. But Medvedev's recent statement makes clear that his government supports the implicit goal of the air strikes -- regime change in Libya -- and would not block further action toward that end. If Qaddafi had hoped that he might outlast the Security Council's will to fight, he is clearly nowhere close. The window for him to leave the country peacefully remains open, but is clearly closing quickly.