Could Russia participate in a naval blockade to prevent arms shipments to anti-government fighters in Libya? Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, told Russia’s official news agency Tass, “I would not rule this out.” About a week later, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt “would welcome contributions of any country that has abilities to provide such contributions,” adding that “Russia plays an important role in this issue since it has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.”

For the moment, it’s premature to ask about Russia’s potential participation in a blockade — the idea assumes a UN Security Council decision to permit arms shipments to Libya’s government despite an existing international arms embargo. The blockade would prevent arms shipments to Islamic State (IS) and other militants in Libya while allowing deliveries to the internationally recognized government in the country’s east. On March 9, the Security Council put off approving the Libyan government’s request for weapons after Spain and several other nations (including the United States) asked for more information about the plan.

While he stopped short of mentioning Russia’s possible role in a blockade, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made clear that Moscow may support Security Council action — proposed by Egypt — “to increase the efforts to combat the terrorist threat coming from Libya.” However, he said Russia wants any international moves approved by the United Nations. Abandoning diplomatic subtlety, Lavrov argued that the United States and its coalition against IS should seek the same approval with respect to Syria (as well as seeking consent from Damascus for strikes into its territory). […]