Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 185

Moscow continued yesterday to lobby hard against any NATO military intervention in Yugoslavia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin restated Moscow’s views in a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, arguing that the use of force by NATO would “be disastrous for international peace.” The British leader reportedly called on Moscow to pressure Yugoslavia to fulfill a UN Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo and the launching of peace talks. Yesterday Yeltsin also reportedly ordered Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to attend a meeting of the international Contact Group–the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy–that had been tentatively scheduled for today in London (Itar-Tass, October 7).

In a radio interview broadcast on October 6, meanwhile, an aide to the Russian president made the unlikely claim that Moscow is in no way an advocate for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Sergei Prikhodko, deputy head of the presidential administration and a foreign policy adviser to Yeltsin, said that Russia is instead sincerely interested in helping all interested parties resolve the crisis in Kosovo. As proof of this, he said that a high-level Russian delegation recently dispatched to Belgrade–which included Ivanov and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev–had firmly insisted to Yugoslav leaders that they move immediately to halt the armed clashes in Kosovo. Milosevic was also urged, he said, to withdraw Yugoslav and Serb troops and special forces from Kosovo in order to create conditions for the return of refugees and the invigoration of the negotiation process. Prikhodko, who again restated Moscow’s insistence that the UN Security Council must authorize any NATO military action in Kosovo, added that the Kremlin now views the Kosovo crisis as its top foreign policy priority (Ekho Moskvy, October 6).

Yesterday’s developments in Moscow came as the latest round of talks between U.S. Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Milosevic ended in apparent failure. That development does not mean, however, that proposed NATO strikes on selected targets in Kosovo and Serbia are imminent. Despite claims by the Clinton administration that NATO members are prepared to support the air strikes, it is apparent that a number of NATO countries remain hesitant to approve military action against Belgrade without authorization from the UN Security Council. Russia and China–each a permanent UN Security Council member–have said they will veto any such UN resolution. The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Hans van den Broek, yesterday criticized Moscow for its opposition to the use of force. He said that Russia should put aside its concerns in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo (Reuters, October 7).