Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 183

While the Kremlin was–in official terms at least–urging the Serbs to comply swiftly with recent UN resolutions, a host of leading Russian politicians were unequivocally denouncing NATO in the harshest terms for its threat of strikes on Yugoslavia. Russian defense chief Igor Sergeev, for example, warned that military actions in Yugoslavia by the Western alliance would return East and West to the “Cold War” while further reducing the chances of any quick ratification of the START II strategic arms treaty by Russian lawmakers.

Others used stronger language. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called NATO’s preparations for strikes “utterly irresponsible… an unpardonable blunder,” and “a crime.” He intimated that Moscow would consider helping Belgrade militarily in the event of NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, called for an end to diplomatic relations between Russia and those countries involved directly in the strikes on Yugoslavia. He also urged that Russia offer military aid to that country–including the dispatch of air force pilots and the delivery of air defense systems–to deter NATO strikes. If that failed, he said, START II ratification would be out of the question. Cooperation agreements between Russia and NATO would also be thrown out the window.

The rhetoric from at least one member of the centrist “Russia is Our Home” faction was, if anything, even more alarmist. Roman Popkovich, chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee, described the defense industrial complex of the NATO countries as “the worst horror in the world today” and the real beneficiary of developments in Kosovo. He said that NATO is seeking a military engagement in the Balkans only to use Yugoslavia as a new testing range for its high-precision weapons. He also said that Moscow should now rethink its compliance with the CFE Treaty, with the NATO-Russia Founding Act and with treaties setting out Russia’s western border (Russian agencies, October 5).