Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 147

Even as Russia’s top brass has seethed over the minor role which Moscow is playing in the Kosovo peacekeeping force, Russian diplomats and other political leaders have kept up a steady stream of invective aimed at the alliance for its alleged failures and misdeeds in managing the peace settlement. On July 27, for example, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement accusing the NATO-led Kosovo force of having failed to react properly to the murder of fourteen Serb farmers several days earlier. The Foreign Ministry statement included a condemnation of the “outrageous crime,” which, it said, was “linked to the passive attitude of the leadership of the Kosovo Force (KFOR).” The statement also spoke of the need for “a rapid and complete demilitarization of the KLA” (the Kosovo Liberation Army), and accused unnamed UN Security Council members of trying to play down the importance of the murders. Not surprisingly, Moscow welcomed–and claimed credit for–a UN statement which “strongly condemned” the slayings and called for a “thorough investigation” to bring the killers to justice (AFP, July 28; Russian agencies, July 27).

Moscow’s rhetoric could have some practical ramifications. In the wake of the July 23 slayings Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic called for the return of the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police to Kosovo. Any such move would, obviously, be met with strong opposition by NATO. But not necessarily by Moscow. In the course of his July 28 interview, Russian Airborne Forces commander General Georgy Shpak suggested that he saw the return of Yugoslav police forces to Kosovo as a potentially positive development (Russian agencies, July 28). Moscow’s talk of a “complete demilitarization of the KLA” also has a purpose. Russian political and military leaders have repeatedly criticized KFOR for implementing a plan which calls for the gradual disarmament of the KLA over a ninety-day period. Moscow has portrayed the plan as yet another example of how NATO is “coddling” Kosovo Albanian guerrillas, and has demanded that the KLA be compelled to disarm more quickly and more completely.

Moscow, finally, has continued to look for a way to “punish” NATO for what Russian leaders say are the alliance’s crimes against Yugoslavia. An “anti-NATO” group in the Russian parliament has been at the forefront of this effort, passing a number of strident resolutions condemning the NATO leadership while calling also for investigations into the alliance’s crimes against humanity. The parliament’s actions have been largely nonbinding ones, however, and while the Russian Foreign Ministry has also spoken in such terms, it has generally not sunk to the rhetorical depths of Russian lawmakers.

That is apparently not true, however, of a recent interview given by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to the German magazine “Stern.” The interview contains Moscow’s now standard denunciations of alleged U.S. ambitions to become the world’s “policeman.” And, because “violence begets violence,” Ivanov also blames NATO for the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Serb and Yugoslav forces in Kosovo (a campaign which Moscow has heretofore denied or largely ignored). But, in this case, Ivanov also casts his lot with Russian lawmakers in suggesting that NATO Secretary General Javier Solana should be among those investigated for possible war crimes in connection with the Kosovo conflict (AFP, Itar-Tass, July 28). Ivanov’s remark may play well back home, but it is unlikely to be warmly received in Europe, where the popular and respected Solana has recently been named to a top security post for the European Union.