Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 25

On February 3 two prominent advisers, Sergei Markov and Vladimir Volkov, publicly counseled the Russian government to exploit the Kosovo crisis as an opportunity to instigate anti-American sentiment in Western Europe while providing limited support to Serbia. Markov, director of the Political Studies Institute, and Volkov, director of the Slavic and Balkan Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, premised their case on the admission that “a weakened Russia” is currently unable to offset American and NATO power. Russia should, they say, try to coalesce, not alone, but with China, India and others–particularly with those “West European countries which are not inclined to accept unconditionally the American rules of the game” and are “not interested in the creation of a single-polar international system.” Moscow might play on “the Europeans’ sense of injury from not being allowed to solve European problems, including the Yugoslav problem, on their own.” Russia should “play, to the full extent, on differences between the European Union and the United States over the issue of Europeanization of NATO.”

Markov and Volkov suggest that Moscow should exploit West European apprehensions that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia could result in the creation of a “Greater Albania,” a fairly sizeable Muslim state within Europe. They recommend that Russia officially provide “moral support”–apparently meaning diplomatic and propaganda support–to Serbia, and assign Russian intelligence services to prevent arms supplies to the Kosovo Albanian insurgency. By the same token, they caution that delivering Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Serbia could result in a cutoff of Western credits to Russia and even in economic sanctions.

In airing these recommendations, Markov and Volkov cited the “effective tactics” of the Russian Empire’s chancellor Aleksandr Gorchakov, who “succeeded in mitigating the effects of Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean war by playing upon differences among the [Western] great powers” (Russian agencies, February 3). Many Soviet historiographers and diplomats had great respect for Gorchakov. They looked to what he accomplished in the Balkans for inspiration–particularly his ability to draw wedges among Western powers by siding alternately with one group against another and extracting advantages at each juncture for a weak and backward Russia.