The Kremlin continues to struggle to find a middle ground in its diplomatic dealings with Belgrade. Russian first deputy foreign minister Igor Ivanov, just recently returned from Belgrade, told reporters yesterday that the political crisis in Serbia is an internal matter that should be resolved by Serbian leaders absent outside interference and any threat of renewed international sanctions. And although he also called for Serbian authorities to recognize opposition victories in the disputed November 17 municipal elections, Ivanov appeared to underscore that Moscow would play no mediating role in efforts to resolve the crisis. (Interfax, February 3)
Ivanov’s remarks followed a new outbreak of violence in Belgrade on February 2-3 that saw Serbian police use a massive show of force to disperse a crowd of opposition demonstrators. More than 50 protesters were reportedly injured and a number were arrested. (The Washington Post, February 3) The Kremlin has long backed embattled Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic under the guise of "non-interference" in Yugoslav affairs, but that stance has angered opposition forces in Belgrade. It has also led some in Moscow to charge that Russia is forfeiting influence in Serbia as a result, and a Russian parliamentary leader suggested on January 13 that Duma deputies might serve as intermediaries in the political stand-off there. (See Monitor, January 14) In what appeared soon thereafter to be a tactical retreat by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Ivanov met on January 28 with several opposition leaders and announced Moscow’s support for OSCE recommendations that the opposition’s election victories be recognized. (RIA, January 28) His statement yesterday, however, suggested that the Kremlin wishes still to hedge its bets and has little interest in attempting to mediate the current crisis.
Soviet-Style "Correlation of Forces" Is Alive and Well.