Ignoring the latest admonitions from Moscow, NATO member countries yesterday decided to maintain the threat of air strikes against Yugoslav targets if Belgrade fails to comply with international demands. The decision, meant to maintain pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, came as Belgrade authorities hurriedly pulled back Serb security forces from Kosovo. The Western alliance had earlier set yesterday as the deadline for the Serb pullback. In keeping some 400 NATO warplanes on alert, alliance leaders chose not to set any new deadlines for possible airstrikes. They did, however, reserve the right to launch an attack at any time should the situation take a turn for the worse. NATO leaders hope that the threat of attacks will help protect the several hundred thousand ethnic Albanian residents of Kosovo who have been left homeless by the long Serb crackdown in their province (AP, Reuters, October 27).
Despite the obvious efforts of Belgrade authorities to withdraw the security forces before the expiration of the NATO deadline, Russia’s Foreign Ministry nevertheless spent yesterday repudiating anew the notion that NATO’s threat of airstrikes had been a factor in Belgrade’s actions. Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov suggested that Belgrade’s compliance with international demands to get its forces out of Kosovo had been the result not of NATO threats, but of diplomatic efforts by the UN, the OSCE and the six-nation Contact Group. In that same vein, he referred also both to the “significant role” played by Moscow in resolving the crisis, and to Russia’s continuing influence in the Balkans.
Ivanov called, in addition, for NATO to cancel its military alert and to cease its preparations for possible air strikes on Yugoslavia. He charged that the Western alliance has neither the authority to launch attacks on Yugoslavia, nor the legal right to issue ultimatums to Belgrade. Related points were made by a Russian Foreign Ministry statement issued yesterday in Moscow. The statement said that “there is no alternative to a nonviolent settlement of the Kosovo problem.” It also complained that the UN Security Council’s October 24 resolution authorizing an OSCE observer mission in Kosovo had failed to mention positive developments in Kosovo. For that reason, and because the resolution also criticized Yugoslav authorities for their crackdown on the mass media, Russia and China chose to abstain from voting on the resolution, the statement said (Russian agencies, October 27).
RUSSIAN-CHINESE SUMMIT STILL ON.