Russian Warships Dock at Libyan Port Tobruk

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Otago, New Zealand. As the Africa Desk Chief for Atlas, her expertise spans conflict, politics, and history. She is also the Editor for The ModernInsurgent and has interests in yoga and meditation.

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Two ships belonging to Russia’s Pacific Fleet—the Varyag missile cruiser (Slava class) and the Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate—have docked at the Libyan port of Tobruk and are expected to stay for three days. The docking comes as Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which exerts de facto control of the central-southern regions of Libya, seeks to establish stronger ties with the European nation.

What You Need to Know

A statement released by the LNA outlined the arrival of the ships: “As part of efforts toward strengthening relations between the LNA command and Russia, a group of Russian warships consisting of the Varyag missile cruiser and Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate has called at Tobruk after finishing a visit to Egypt.”

According to Russian state media TASS, the two ships docked at Egypt’s port of Alexandria on June 10th, holding a series of joint drills with the Egyptian military on June 14th before departing for Libya.

So, What Now?

This latest arrival in Libya forms part of Moscow’s larger strategy to establish a naval base in the country. As highlighted by the Institute for the Study of War, “The Kremlin likely aims to protect its position in Libya so that it can use Libya’s strategic location to pose conventional and irregular threats to Europe and continue using it as a logistical bridgehead for activities in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Moreover, Moscow maintains relations with both of Libya’s rival authorities—the Government of National Unity in Tripoli and the Government of National Stability in Sirte.

Essentially, Moscow is seeking to build up its military and logistical capacities in the country, not only because Libya acts as a gateway to Africa, where the Kremlin has various economic and military interests, but also to establish a naval base at either Tobruk or Benghazi port. For many years, the Kremlin has been building upon its ties with Libya’s neighbors such as Sudan (where it also hopes to build a naval base), Egypt, Niger, and Chad. Outside of Libya’s direct neighbors lie Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and the Central African Republic, where Russia’s Wagner Group has built up a presence.