Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 95

Russia remained active in Balkans diplomacy over the weekend while continuing its criticism of the United States and NATO for the alliance’s ongoing air campaign against Yugoslavia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned twice last week that Moscow might withdraw from its role as a mediator of the Kosovo dispute if the West did not halt the bombing campaign.

Over the weekend, however, the Kremlin’s special envoy for the Balkans, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, appeared to be continuing preparations for a new round of talks this week aimed at brokering a resolution of the conflict. Chernomyrdin traveled to Finland on May 14 for talks with President Martti Ahtisaari, after which he suggested that efforts to formulate a plan for a post-settlement security force in Kosovo would intensify this week.

Chernomyrdin also told reporters that he would probably meet with Ahtisaari once again this week. According to some reports, that meeting could come as early as tomorrow and might also include U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. According to Chernomyrdin, he and Ahtisaari might then schedule talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, where they would present their new proposals (Western agencies, Itar-Tass, May 14; International Herald Tribune, May 15).

Disagreements between Belgrade and NATO over the makeup of the Kosovo security force remain the biggest–though certainly not the sole–obstacle to a political settlement of the Kosovo conflict. One senior European diplomat was quoted over the weekend as saying that Ahtisaari would not agree to talks in Yugoslavia if NATO and Russia could not first reach agreement on the makeup of the Kosovo security force (Reuters, May 14).

In St. Petersburg, meanwhile, acting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned on May 15 that no one–including Russia–has “a magic solution for the situation in Kosovo.” Ivanov, attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the Baltic and Nordic countries, also used the occasion to condemn NATO for its May 13 attack on the Kosovo village of Korisa, which may have left as many as 100 ethnic Albanian refugees dead. Ivanov described the accidental attack as another “crime” committed by the alliance, and called on NATO leaders to move immediately to halt “this madness” (Itar-Tass, May 14).