The Libya conflict signals the end of Nato's eastward expansion and the beginning of a new campaign to conquer the oil-rich Muslim south, Russia's envoy to the military alliance has said.
"To us the war in Libya led by the Western coalition was an entirely new event, a new element that has to be analysed," Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, told EUobserver in an interview on Thursday (1 September), as the anti-Gaddafi coalition met in Paris to mark its victory.
"The war was the end-stage of Nato's eastern expansion. From now on, Nato will expand toward its southern borders, it will project its efforts toward the south, toward traditional Islamic societies," he explained.
"In my own opinion - this is not the official opinion of my country - it was an oil war," he added.
"The West has failed to put forward any economic response [to the financial crisis] and now they are trying to provide their economies with cheap hydrocarbons ... What makes all these ministries in Europe so keen to spend so much money on a new military campaign? Just to help the Libyan people? If you say so, you will make me laugh."
Rogozin predicted that Libya is only "the first" country in the region to face what he called a "new crusade".
He noted that Russia will not support an EU-drafted UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Syria in case Nato exploits it to start a war with President Bashar Assad as well.
"Now, we cannot trust Nato. We cannot be sure that after a similar resolution is taken on Syria, they will not exceed that also, that in such a case, [Nato] bombs will start dropping on Damascus."
He said Russia is "happy" that Nato has turned its attention away from former Soviet countries toward the south.
But he predicted the development will increase anti-Western Muslim radicalism in the Middle East and inside Europe. He also voiced worries about what he sees as Nato's attempt to take over from the United Nations in terms of world governance.
"In the first stage Nato will try to become equal to the United Nations in the decision-making process and in a later stage even superior to the UN ... Nato is a group of 28 countries and some of them will withdraw from this consolidation, the alliance itself will be left as a background to this process."
Rogozin defended Russia's own role in Libya, saying it tried to act as an honest broker between Gaddafi and rebel forces and recognised the rebel leaders, the Transitional National Council, on 1 September only when the civil war had ended.
But he accused the West of "nihilism" in its "violation" of UNSC 1973, which mandated the creation of a no-fly zone and protection of civilians, but which did not give Nato the right to wage war against Gaddafi or to supply arms to rebels.
On a personal note, he also accused Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen of lying about civilian deaths.
Referring to a Nato air strike in the Libyan town of Majer on 8 August, he said there is clear evidence that dozens of civilians, including women and children, were killed.
The Russian ambassador wrote a letter to Rasmussen after the event to seek clarification.
"I received no response from the secretary general. Instead he issued a statement saying that Nato has flown such and such a number of sorties and he said in his statement that no civilians were killed in Libya ... We were shocked."