Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 78

Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin–now serving as the Kremlin’s special envoy for the Kosovo crisis– arrived in Belgrade today. “We came with concrete proposals to stop the Yugoslav tragedy. The Russian initiative is backed by leaders of other CIS countries which I toured before my visit to Yugoslavia.” Chernomyrdin told reporters at the airport before driving off for a meeting with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (Itar-Tass, April 22). The Chernomyrdin mission, however, is unlikely to bring Moscow much satisfaction. Despite the talk of Chernomyrdin’s close ties to Milosevic and a recent flurry of Kosovo-related activities by Russian government officials, there is no evidence that the Kremlin has come up with a formula for a settlement which would be acceptable to both NATO and Belgrade. Indeed, one Russian newspaper commentary appeared recently to sum up Moscow’s dilemma rather neatly. It observed that “we do not have, and have never had, any ideas on how to resolve the Serbian-Albanian conflict, save for the phrase we traditionally resort to: ‘by political means.'” The piece concluded that Russia has “been humiliated by the Serbs and NATO alike.” The best that Moscow can hope for, the piece continued, is to “have Milosevic pass on to NATO his proposals via Russia, and this will be presented as a great victory for ‘Russian diplomacy'” (Obshchaya gazeta, April 15-21). Chernomyrdin’s visit to Belgrade today appears likely to underscore–once again–that Moscow, in fact, has little influence in the Yugoslav capital. It also seems likely that any “diplomatic victory” Chernomyrdin might achieve will be devoid of substance.