Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 190

The Russian government yesterday claimed a diplomatic victory in the Balkans, adding that NATO’s decision to hold off on air strikes against Yugoslavia proved that Russia remains a great power and a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. In remarks made to Russian lawmakers, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia’s efforts to avert the strikes “were supported worldwide.” He also claimed credit for an agreement between Belgrade and the West–negotiated by U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke–which calls for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors to observe the withdrawal of Serb and Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. Ivanov described the establishment of the OSCE mission as a “Russian initiative.”

Ivanov’s remarks were clearly aimed at deflecting criticism of Russia’s handling of the Kosovo crisis. Duma members from all corners of the political landscape have opposed the proposed NATO military intervention in Kosovo and mounted a frenzied campaign which portrays proposed NATO actions as inimical to Russia’s national interests.

With this domestic context in mind, Ivanov also depicted Moscow’s “victory” as proof of what the Russian government could accomplish when all its branches of power coordinate their efforts rather than work at cross-purposes. He suggested that, in formulating its approach to Kosovo, the Foreign Ministry had taken to heart admonitions from outside the government that Russia be less reticent about throwing its weight around on the international stage. He also denied intimations that Russia’s economic crisis will compel the Foreign Ministry to forego national interests in an effort to win foreign financial assistance. Finally, Ivanov adopted the rhetoric of hardline parliamentary and Defense Ministry leaders in saying that, by opposing NATO military action, Moscow had helped avert “a world under a dictatorship of one state or a group of states” (Russian agencies, October 14).