Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 67

Moscow’s behavior with regard to the crisis in Kosovo has been much more measured than such rhetoric would suggest. The country did dispatch a first shipment of humanitarian aid yesterday. The truck convoy carrying the supplies–reported to consist mostly of medicines and foods–was headed to Belgrade. But Russian naval officials seemed to recant their previous suggestion that Moscow would dispatch a group of six warships to the Mediterranean to supplement the one Russian reconnaissance vessel already there.

But the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said yesterday that there was little point in sending the ships now. In what appeared to be criticism of the government’s military policy, moreover, Admiral Igor Kasatonov claimed that if Russian ships had been deployed in the Mediterranean prior to the NATO airstrikes–as would have been the case during Soviet times–NATO would not have dared to launch its attacks (AP, April 6). Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, like its other fleets, is now beset with problems which would make it difficult to mount a major military operation.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, meanwhile, suggested yesterday that Moscow intends to launch a fresh diplomatic initiative aimed at ending the NATO strikes soon. But he provided no details as to what the new effort would entail. He did continue to call for a series of international meetings–involving particularly the Group of Seven leading industrial nations (G-7) and the Contact Group–to discuss the situation in Kosovo. Foreign Ministry officials from the Contact Group are scheduled to meet today. But several Western countries, including the United States, have so far resisted Russian demands that the Contact Group and the G-7 (plus Russia) meet at the foreign minister level (Russian and international agencies, April 6).

In an effort to at least slow the speed of the current downward spiral in relations between Washington and Moscow, U.S. Vice President Albert Gore yesterday held a forty-five minute telephone conversation with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov about the Balkans crisis. Afterward Gore described the call as “businesslike,” and said he had “underscored that U.S. concerns with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic should not be allowed to cause any long-term damage to U.S.-Russian relationships.” He also reportedly urged Primakov to use his Russian influence in Belgrade in order to urge Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to agree to NATO demands (AP, Reuters, April 6). Primakov was en route to Washington for talks with, among others, Gore when he had his plane turned back to Moscow upon hearing that NATO intended to proceed with its military campaign against Yugoslavia. Yesterday’s conversation was reportedly the first the two men had had since that time.