Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov, together with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, suggested that the agreement hammered out by U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic earlier this week had all but foreclosed any possibility of NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia (Itar-Tass, October 14). That view contrasted sharply with the public posture adopted both in Brussels and in some other Western capitals. NATO officials, for example, made clear yesterday that the alliance is deeply suspicious of Milosevic’s intentions and remains fully poised to launch strikes against Belgrade. “The 96-hour clock is still ticking. The heat is still on,” one NATO official told reporters following a meeting of the Alliance’s North Atlantic Council. NATO authorized air strikes early Tuesday and gave Milosevic four days to comply with international demands (Reuters, October 14).
That point–NATO’s insistence that it maintain the threat of military strikes against Milosevic–seemed likely to be the source of friction between Russia and the Western powers today, however. Ivanov told Russian lawmakers that Moscow will insist at a ceremony scheduled for today in Vienna that the NATO threat of bombing be abandoned (Russian agencies, October 14). The Vienna event has been scheduled in order to confer on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) the mandate for the 2,000-strong international observer mission to be established in Kosovo. The question of NATO’s readiness to act in Yugoslavia is also likely to be on the agenda today when Russia and its Contact Group partners–the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy–convene in Paris. They are to discuss implementing the accord reached by Holbrooke and Milosevic, and to define the respective roles to be played by the United Nations, the OSCE, and NATO (Reuters, October 14).
In a sign of possible Moscow-NATO cooperation, there were indications yesterday that Russian aircraft may be joining those of the Western Alliance in overflights of Kosovo. These overflights are part of the monitoring agreement Holbrooke and Milosevic reached. Holbrooke offered few details of how that cooperation might be implemented, however, and there were hints in Brussels of some misgivings among NATO officials about a possible Russian role in the overflights (Reuters, October 14). Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev had earlier indicated Moscow’s willingness to join the monitoring mission and to provide aircraft for the overflights (Itar-Tass, October 12).
RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE QUESTIONS U.S. STING OPERATION.