Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 189

In Russia’s currently confused political climate it is unclear whether Ivashov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev–who has also spoken in alarmist terms over possible Russian reactions to NATO strikes–are clearing their statements with either the president’s or prime minister’s office. Certainly Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov–who served nearly three years as Russia’s foreign minister, following a term as the country’s foreign intelligence chief–is capable of orchestrating a Russian response to the current Kosovo crisis which would seem to suggest a disparity of views–hard and harder–between the country’s civilian and military leaders. This is especially true given both Primakov’s long-established reputation as a hardline defender of Russian “national interests” and Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s growing infirmity. In any event, Yeltsin’s press secretary, Dmitri Yakushkin, yesterday strongly rebuffed the Defense Ministry’s recent comments on Kosovo. “Let us keep in mind the official position which is voiced by the president and the premier,” Yakushkin said. “Do not pay attention to statements made by the military” (Russian agencies, October 13).

Yakushkin’s admonition could probably be applied as well to a number of Russian parliamentarians, who have been among the country’s most frenzied critics of proposed NATO military actions in the Balkans. State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov announced yesterday that the Duma intended today to consider yet another resolution condemning threatened NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. This one, Ryzhkov said, would be even tougher than a similar resolution passed last week. Echoing Ivashov, Ryzhkov said that the resolution “describes the possible airstrikes by NATO as an act of aggression and as an act that can be regarded as a direct threat to Russia’s interests not only in the Balkans but on a wider, strategic and geopolitical scale” (Itar-Tass, October 13).

Ryzhkov’s remarks came as the Duma announced its intention to dispatch a four-man delegation, led by ultranationalist deputy speaker Sergei Baburin, to Belgrade. Scheduled to depart today, the delegation will remain in Yugoslavia “until NATO’s ultimatum to that country ends,” according to Baburin (Itar-Tass, October 13). A Russian parliamentary delegation–in this case headed by Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky–kept up a similar vigil in February of this year when the United States and Britain threatened to launch air strikes against Iraq for its defiance of UN weapons inspectors.