Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 40

However significant the February 16 Russia-NATO talks prove over the longer term, they are apparently not going to ensure any immediate halt to Russian criticism of the Western alliance. That appeared to be clear even during the visit by Ivashov to Switzerland that occurred on the day of Robertson’s talks in Moscow. Ivashov used his time in Geneva to fulminate anew against NATO and the United States, accusing Washington of trying to “brainwash” the world and warning that U.S. policies were pushing humanity toward a new Cold War. He also claimed that the Europeans had been victimized by Washington’s Kosovo policies, and observed–in a Cold War-style rhetoric–that some U.S. defense policies are pointing to possibly differences between Washington and Europe. Most of all, Ivashov appeared to depict the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia as proof of Washington’s–or NATO’s–reliance on a global policy of “force.” He warned that U.S.-NATO efforts to “dictate” to the world were generating international opposition, and claimed that Russia and China and India were drawing closer together to combat this purported danger. He warned that “nobody will oust Russia from Europe” (Itar-Tass, February 16; Agence France Presse, February 17).

That the international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo will also remain a flashpoint in relations between Russia and NATO was highlighted this week, when Russian officials renewed their criticism of KFOR’s performance there. On February 23 Ivashov was back in the news, this time denouncing what he said was a plan for joint NATO and KFOR military exercises–without Russia’s participation. “This kind of decision can only be seen as an attempt to diminish Russia’s role in the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo,” Ivashov was quoted as saying. It was perhaps no surprise that he also warned that the NATO decision could hamper “the establishment of broader contacts between Russia and NATO in settling the situation in Kosovo, and in the broader context as well” (Russian agencies, February 23).

Moscow also criticized KFOR’s handling of recent turbulence in northern Kosovo. On February 23 the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement charging that it is “increasingly obvious that KFOR and the UN mission are unable to curb the violence in the region and to ensure at least minimum security for the Serb population there.” The Russian statement blamed “Albanian extremists” for the problems in Kosovska Mitrovica and also criticized efforts by UN administrators to end the city’s ethnic division. A day later Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, just back from high-level talks in the United States, warned that Russia could withdraw its troops from Kosovo if the situation there does not improve (Russian agencies, February 23-24). Moscow has frequently threatened in the past to withdraw those 3,600 men, but the warnings have generally come from the Defense Ministry (especially from Ivashov), not from the civilian authorities.