Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 97

Following talks with EU foreign ministers in Brussels on May 17, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had also highlighted the issue of bringing an end to the NATO air offensive against Belgrade. Those talks ended unsuccessfully. Ivanov also admitted, however, that Moscow intended to continue its diplomatic efforts for a Kosovo settlement even if it was not satisfied on the bombing issue. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has warned twice in recent days that Moscow might withdraw from the Kosovo peace efforts if NATO did not stop its airstrikes (Russian agencies, May 17).

Indeed, an ailing Yeltsin is reported to have told visiting Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar by telephone yesterday that “NATO’s continuing aggression against Yugoslavia is not only obstructing a political and peaceful settlement to the Kosovo issue, but is also undermining the most important international political achievements of recent years in overcoming the aftermath of the Cold War” (Russian agencies, May 18). That is now a familiar Kremlin refrain, but it has been sung with renewed gusto by Russian leaders since NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, not coincidentally, yesterday repeated its demand for an immediate end to the NATO air campaign.

Following developments in the Balkans, meanwhile, apparently remains something of a priority for the Russian government. Chernomyrdin reportedly held consultations yesterday prior to his departure for Helsinki with the heads of the Foreign and Defense Ministries, as well as the chiefs of Russia’s other “power” structures. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said after yesterday’s session that the Russian military leadership analyzes the situation in Yugoslavia. He also repeated the claim, which has not been heard for several weeks now, that developments in the Balkans could lead the Russian government to increase defense expenditures (Russian agencies, May 18).