The Wall Street Journal suggests that after reaching a military agreement with Russia regarding northern Syria, Turkey seems to be working to convince Moscow to cooperate in a similar manner in Libya as well.
The Turkish government is set to host Russian President Putin in the coming weeks (January 8), in order to discuss Libya, Syria and other foreign policy matters. Both countries see Libya as a strategic prize and are seeking to project their influence on the country, which is strategically located and has vast oil reserves. It was also once, and would be again, a valuable arms consumer for the two exporters.
Despite the military agreement and possibility that Turkey will send forces, partly to counter the influence of Russian mercenaries fighting for the opposition LNA, Turkey is wary of slipping into a full proxy war against Russia, so claims the WSJ. Rather, Turkey is like to try to establish a coordination mechanism with Russia to avoid confrontation. This could be to ensure Russian forces avoid targeting Turkish personnel on the ground, and possibly even to get Russia to withdraw its mercenaries, which it denies having connection to.
The article suggests, drawing on various analysts, that Russia, for its part, might be tempted to try to "lure" the NATO member out of the Western orbit fully and into Russia's orbit. Turkey has had increasing tensions with the US and Europe in recent years, and recently received advanced Russian missile defence technologies, something which has upset the US.
Analyst Jalel Harchaeoi, a Libya expert, suggested that Erdogan's bluster in recent months over Libya is more posturing than anything, ahead of his meeting with Putin. At most, Turkey might send its own version of Wagner, SADAT International Defence Consultancy, a private defence contractor, that could allow Turkey to increase its involvement with some deniability, much as Russia is doing.
This is certainly an interesting development, if it pans out, and one the US, Europe and the Arab world must be cautious. Russia and Turkey have already succeeded in carving up Syria for their own interests, and to Syria's detriment. If they seek to do the same in Libya, this would only bring more instability, as much as if the two seriously fought a proxy war through the two parties in the ongoing conflict.
Either situation reflects a lack of commitment and urgency on the part of the international community with much at stake. A scenario in which Turkey and Russia continue driving the conflict could drive out less committed foreign actors, allowing the two powers to "divide the spoils" the day after, with Russia taking energy contracts and Turkey reconstruction, perhaps, and both taking advantage of Libya's position to leverage Europe. The US and European powers, together with the Arab world, must work to limit Russia and Turkey's growing involvement, and push all sides to reach a diplomatic solution.