Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 195

Diplomats at the UN said on October 20 that Russia is blocking approval of a proposed UN resolution which would authorize NATO to use force against Belgrade if Yugoslav authorities fail to observe the terms of a recent peace agreement. Discussions of the draft resolution took place behind closed doors among members of the Contact Group (Russia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy). Russia was reportedly prepared to back a resolution calling for Belgrade to withdraw its security forces from Kosovo and permitting some 2000 international observers to monitor Yugoslav compliance. Russia rejected, however, a British proposal permitting the use of military force against Yugoslavia if Belgrade fails to complete the withdrawal of its security forces (Reuters, October 21).

The Russian action continues Moscow’s opposition to Western efforts aimed at maintaining pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Russia’s Contact Group partners–led by Britain and the United States–have sought to establish a credible threat of NATO military reprisals in the event that Milosevic fails to halt Belgrade’s crackdown in Kosovo. Russia, however, has said that it would veto, in the UN Security Council, any authorization for proposed NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. It has also insisted that strikes cannot be launched without UN authorization. In that same spirit, Moscow has criticized NATO’s decision to keep its warplanes on alert in the wake of last week’s peace agreement between Milosevic and U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

The Russian diplomatic sources in Moscow yesterday restated their dissatisfaction with that last NATO decision. The sources suggested, moreover, that Russia would refuse to take part in an OSCE monitoring mission in Kosovo if NATO maintained its threat of military strikes on Yugoslavia. They also decried reports suggesting that NATO forces might provide security for the OSCE monitors in Yugoslavia. That task, they said, should be left for Yugoslav authorities, or for the OSCE itself (Russian agencies, October 21). A NATO official said yesterday that the alliance would like the UN to provide NATO with legal backing for a rapid “extraction” force–probably in the form of helicopter-borne commandos–to rescue Kosovo monitors in the event of a threat. But the official said that primary responsible for the safety of the monitors resides with Milosevic (Reuters, October 21).

Russian officials have on several occasions stated Moscow’s readiness to contribute planes to an air monitoring mission. They have also said that Russia is prepared to contribute some 200 monitors to the OSCE mission on the ground. The diplomatic officials suggested yesterday, however, that Russia’s participation in the mission could be limited by the country’s current financial difficulties. The Russian officials suggested, finally, that Belgrade may be softening its position with regard to autonomy for Kosovo. Previously, they said, authorities in Belgrade insisted that Kosovo must remain a part of Serbia. Now, they intimated, Belgrade may be willing to deal more “flexibly” with the notion that Kosovo be granted some sort of autonomous standing within the Yugoslav federation (Russian agencies, October 21).