There was little evidence during Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov’s recent stay in the United States that Moscow and Washington had narrowed their differences over the Kosovo peace mission. Ivanov’s visit came, in fact, amid reports that the Clinton administration is shifting gears with respect to the political status of Kosovo, and may now not be so categorically opposed to the idea of independence for the Serbian province. In line with that view, Washington is said to be increasing its support for the creation of independent institutions and legal structures in Kosovo. That support reportedly extends to the recent creation of a Kosovo Protection Corps–a largely civil force based on the Kosovo Liberation Army–as well as to the adoption of a new currency and the issuance of temporary travel documents for Kosovo residents (AP, September 24; International Herald Tribune, September 25).
Moscow (like Belgrade) is adamantly opposed to these and similar measures, and is undoubtedly concerned over the shift in U.S. policy. It is unclear whether the Clinton administration spelled out its views in this area during last week’s consultations with Ivanov. At the very least, Albright reportedly expressed to Ivanov “very strongly” the U.S. view that the best way to head off further splintering of Yugoslavia was to get rid of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic” (AP, September 24).
Although there was a brief period during the tenure of Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin in which Moscow appeared to be distancing itself from Milosevic, Russia appears more recently to have moved back solidly into the Yugoslav strongman’s corner. In remarks made last week, moreover, Ivanov continued to make clear Moscow’s discomfort with UN and KFOR policies in Kosovo. He also demanded yet again that the international community respect the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.” By that he meant not only that independence for Kosovo be ruled out, but, in all likelihood, that Belgrade be given veto power over the creation of political and legal institutions in Kosovo. Although NATO members are reported to be divided over the extent to which autonomy for Kosovo is to be encouraged, Moscow is unlikely to win much support for its strong backing of Belgrade. On September 22 Britain, France, Germany and Italy joined the United States in welcoming the most controversial of Kosovo’s new institutions–the Kosovo Protection Force (AP, September 22).
MOSCOW INCHING TOWARD RELUCTANT ACCEPTANCE OF BALTIC ADMISSION TO NATO.