Weapons shipping into Libya? Who would have thought?

An IL-76, from Wikipedia

A while back I made some predictions on Russian activity, trying to think outside the box as to where we would see Russia next. An obvious one to me was Libya. After we kicked out Qaddafi’s government, Russia lost somewhere around $4 billion in military sales since they had supported the wrong side. I don’t think they ever forgot, or forgave, that loss.

Al-Jazeera, a great news resource for all things African news (and not worth reading if they make comments on Israel), took a look at flights into Libya. Yes, you can fly to Libya, even on a normal passenger jet. In the Netherlands I saw regular flights while I was waiting for my airline connection. Al Jazeera noticed some strange air activity from a Reem Travel company. Reem operates a bunch of IL-76 aircraft (big, ugly, and surprisingly reliable Russian transports) to move equipment, people and fuel all over the world, including the Antarctic and CIS (former Soviet) countries.

Reem’s IL-76’s were caught landing at the Libyan National Airport, without a transponder on, and dropping off blandly marked boxes. Libya is under an arms embargo, so anything being smuggled in would have arrived in either unlabeled or mislabeled boxes.

The Russians are particularly good at this, although lately they’ve been slipping. For example, Russia has been shipping an awful lot of “humanitarian aid” into Venezuela. It’s in quotes because magically the gear turns out to have military equipment and soldiers in the shipment. I say they are slipping because they keep getting caught, and it has diplomatic consequences. Malta recently refused to allow them to pull into port. Iceland did this in the past as well.

While we continue to focus on domestic media, don’t forget that there is a lot of interesting things happening. Russia’s current foreign policy is showing that it will both interfere in Libya, and that our allies in Europe are pushing back where they can. Both stories bear repeating.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.