Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 61

Furious denunciations of NATO and the United States continued in Moscow over the weekend, but Russian government officials appeared still to rule out any concrete action which might risk an outright confrontation with the West over Kosovo. Moscow did, however, take additional steps to cut back its military ties with NATO and the United States. On March 26 the Russian government expelled two NATO representatives from Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced that there would be “no contacts with the leaders of NATO, including the secretary general,” until NATO military actions in Yugoslavia are halted (Western and Russian agencies, March 26). Last week Russia had recalled its own representatives to NATO headquarters in Brussels. The Kremlin also suspended Russia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program (see the Monitor, March 25).

In a similar protest move, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on March 26 that it would end a cooperation program with the U.S. Defense Department aimed at mitigating the impact of the millennium computer bug problem. Russian defense officials have addressed the Y2K problem with far less energy than have their American counterparts, but, under U.S. prodding, the two countries appeared of late to be increasing their cooperation in that area. The March 26 announcement means that the two countries may not follow through on a U.S. proposal to create a Russian-American missile launch early-warning center in the United States late this year (AP, March 26).

In addition, Russian General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin reportedly refused on March 26 to speak by telephone with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton. Russian sources quoted Russian Defense Ministry officials as saying that Moscow would soon announce plans to freeze its defense contacts with other countries as well (Washington Post, March 27). The March 26 announcements by Russian diplomats and defense officials followed a Kremlin meeting earlier in the day during which senior government officials, including those from Russia’s defense and intelligence agencies, briefed Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the latest developments in the Balkans.