In Other News: Egypt Edging Closer to Libya Conflict, India Sending Troops to the Border & More – July 31, 2020

July 31, 2020

Egypt edged closer to entering the conflict in Libya when the Egyptian Parliament gave President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi formal authority to use military force. Al-Sisi has threatened military action against the Turkish-backed western Libyan forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA) if they continue their advance on the coastal city of Sirte in Libya. Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia, supports the eastern Libyan forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar, and Al-Sisi has said Egypt would not allow for the defeat of Haftar by the GNA. Al-Sisi has threatened the use of force, but he has also called for a ceasefire in Libya. Deploying the Egyptian military would put Egypt in direct conflict with Turkey in a proxy war in Libya, which would have regional security implications. In an effort to gather international support for Egypt’s position, Al-Sisi has courted support from Saudi Arabia and the United States. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has said Saudi Arabia supports Egypt’s position on Libya but also called for a political solution to the internal conflict. Al-Sisi has spoken with U.S. President Trump as well, and reportedly, Trump agreed on the need to maintain a ceasefire in Libya. However, the U.S. position on Libya is complicated, particularly as the United States has criticized and threatened to sanction Russian-linked military contractors who have taken control of two of Libya’s largest oil facilities.

India is sending another 35,000 troops to the Actual Line of Control, its contested border with China, as bilateral talks have faltered after a clash with Chinese troops on June 15 killed at least 20. India and China have been engaged for weeks in efforts to resolve the dispute, and Beijing, widely believed to have been the aggressor, had announced that its troops were disengaging in many of their locations in the area. Negotiations are expected to continue, but progress appears to have stalled for now. India’s military is no match for China’s on a normal day, and right now, India is facing twin Covid-19 crises – the world’s fastest-growing infection rate and an economy pummeled by a two-month-plus nationwide lockdown. Its military is already engaged at a section of disputed border with Pakistan, as well as in Jammu and Kashmir, where anti-Delhi resentment is running high following India’s revocation of the area’s semi-autonomous status, and in light of a spate of anti-Muslim policies. India initially seemed to be hitting back at China through punitive trade measures targeting its tech and telecom sectors, banning more than 100 Chinese apps and restricting tech giant Huawei’s involvement in buildout of its 5G network, and under the circumstances, this show of force in the Himalayas is likely to be just that – a show. India’s best option, and one it seems to be simultaneously pursuing, is to hew closely to a strengthening coalition of allies whose collective alarm at Chinese aggression throughout Asia is prompting them to push back in various ways, including high-profile military drills in the South China Sea and closing off their 5G networks to Chinese developers.

Russia plans to officially register the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine by mid-August, which would be a substantial victory for the Kremlin’s push to reestablish the country’s global standing as a scientific powerhouse. The Soviet Union (with Russia at the helm) was notable for its many scientific achievements, including the world’s first artificial satellite and the first human spaceflight. However, the speed at which Moscow aims to introduce this vaccine into the general population has triggered some well-founded skepticism about the development process and suspicions that the country cut corners in its race to be first (though it has reportedly been administering the vaccine to business and political elites since April). Adding to concerns about its safety and efficacy is that data on the vaccine, under development by Gamaleya, has not been released to the public. The U.S. and U.K. have both accused Moscow of attempting to steal Covid-19 vaccine research, and if that effort proved successful, it could help to explain how Russia leapfrogged over an array of well-funded research teams in the West and elsewhere, including in Japan and China. Ultimately, being first may establish a scientific marker, but will be a secondary consideration next to safety, efficacy, affordability, and reliability of production and distribution.