Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 184

If there were any lingering doubts that Moscow might be convinced to support NATO strikes on Yugoslavia, they were erased yesterday by Russia’s foreign minister. Igor Ivanov, named to the Foreign Ministry post less than a month ago, told reporters that Russia would veto any UN resolution that authorized NATO military actions to resolve the crisis in Kosovo. Moscow has loudly and repeatedly voiced its opposition to a NATO military intervention in Yugoslavia, but Ivanov’s remarks yesterday were the clearest indication to date that Russia would indeed exercise its veto on the matter should it be brought before the UN Security Council. “Russia would definitely use its right of veto,” Ivanov said. “A military strike will not help normalize the situation [in Kosovo] but will have the opposite effect” (International and Russian agencies, October 6).

Ivanov’s remarks merely continued the drumbeat of criticism in Moscow aimed at proposed NATO military strikes on Yugoslavia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin added his voice to the chorus once again yesterday. Despite facing an array of debilitating domestic crises, Yeltsin took time to warn the West against using force in Kosovo without a UN mandate. Like Ivanov, he cautioned that NATO military action would only further complicate the situation in the Balkans. Yeltsin also continued his telephone diplomacy on the issue. Reports said that he had put his case to French President Jacques Chirac. A day earlier Yeltsin had held telephone consultations with U.S. President Bill Clinton, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and German Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder (UPI, Russian agencies, October 6).

Moscow also appeared to do a bit of saber-rattling of its own yesterday. Russian authorities announced that the country’s air force had just launched a major strategic exercise. An air force spokesman denied that the exercise was in any way connected to events in Kosovo. A senior Russian General Staff officer, meanwhile, told reporters that Russia’s armed forces were prepared to fulfill any order from the Kremlin in connection with events in Kosovo. Colonel General Vladislav Putilin did not elaborate on the comment (RIA, October 6). A few Russian lawmakers have urged that Moscow help Belgrade militarily in the event of NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. Some Russian military sources, meanwhile, have suggested that the Yugoslav army’s Russian-made air defense systems will serve Belgrade well in the event that NATO decides to launch strikes on Yugoslav (Itar-Tass, October 6).

Although Belgrade has in recent days made some effort to meet UN demands that it withdraw its security forces from Kosovo, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has in general remained defiant in the face of NATO’s threats. That policy appears to be based on a calculus that Russia–together with China–will block any UN authorization of NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. Ivanov’s veto announcement, therefore, intensifies pressure on NATO member countries to decide whether the alliance is prepared to launch military actions without UN authorization. Those countries–led by the United States and Britain–which have backed the military option even without additional UN approval may have suffered a setback as a result of the recent election in Germany. Bonn had been taking a relatively firm line on the issue, but a spokeswoman for the Greens party–slated to be part of Germany’s governing coalition–suggested yesterday that it would oppose NATO actions without an authorizing UN resolution (Reuters, October 6).