Russia was a partial dissenter yesterday as the six-nation Contact Group, meeting in London, imposed an arms embargo and leveled other sanctions on Yugoslavia. The action follows a brutal, week-long crackdown by Yugoslav authorities on ethnic Albanians in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The meeting in London was the first time that the Contact Group had met in emergency session since the 1995 Dayton Peace accords on Bosnia. The Group, which includes the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, also threatened to freeze Yugoslav and Serbian republic assets abroad if authorities in Belgrade fail to launch new talks on restoring Kosovo’s autonomy by next week. (Reuter, AP, March 9)
Moscow’s dissent was not unexpected. Russia has backed the Serbs throughout the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. It views friendly relations with Belgrade as a key to rebuilding Moscow’s influence in the Balkans. In the days leading up to yesterday’s meeting, moreover, Russian diplomats continued to describe Kosovo as an internal Yugoslav problem. While calling for dialogue, Russian commentary on the Kosovo crisis has tended to accent the right of Belgrade authorities to safeguard Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity. (Russian agencies, March 6-7) In that regard, Moscow’s position on Kosovo is not unlike the one with which it defended its own bloody crackdown in Chechnya. As a sign of Moscow’s unhappiness over yesterday’s meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov chose not to travel to London. Russia was represented instead by a deputy foreign minister.
Washington Looks Anew to Halt Russian-Iranian Missile Cooperation.