After years of providing behind-the-scenes support for a would-be Libyan strongman, Moscow is now pushing much more directly to shape the outcome of the country’s messy civil war, bringing in advanced Sukhoi jets, coordinated missile strikes, precision-guided artillery and skilled snipers.
It’s the same playbook that made Russia the biggest foreign influence in Syria’s war.
What Russia wants: The Kremlin has intervened on behalf of the militia leader Khalifa Hifter, who is also backed by the U.A.E., Egypt, Saudi Arabia and, at times, France. He is at war with a coalition of pro-government militias from western Libya that is nominally supported by the U.S. and other Western powers, though Turkey is its only real patron.
Two-tiered war: Turkey and the U.A.E. have turned Libya into the first war fought primarily by clashing fleets of armed drones. But on the ground, small militias clash in a handful of deserted districts on the southern outskirts of Tripoli.