Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 123

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov yesterday warned that any use of force by NATO to resolve the Kosovo dispute would be “inconceivable.” It might, he said, “change the whole international situation.” Primakov suggested that NATO military intervention would also be ill-received by the Russian public. It could, he said, very well mean the end of friendly relations between Russia and NATO. More generally, Primakov restated Moscow’s argument that NATO has no right to operate outside the territory of its member countries, and that Russia would oppose any such action.

Primakov’s remarks were delivered on the second of a two-day visit to London and appeared to repeat–albeit in less apocalyptic tones–statements made by a top Russian Defense Ministry official. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the ministry’s international cooperation department, had warned on June 19 that NATO military action in Kosovo absent a UN mandate would “lead to the start of a new Cold War.” Ivashov also leveled a number of more general criticisms at NATO and its role in maintaining European security. (See the Monitor, June 22) Primakov likewise drew a “red line,” saying that Moscow would not accept the alliance’s expansion onto the territory of the former Soviet Union. He also restated Moscow’s preference for a NATO transformed into a political rather than a military organization, or one somehow conjoined with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). (Itar-Tass, June 25) During his stay in London, Primakov also attended a meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, Luxembourg and Austria, and held talks with British Secretary of State for Defense, George Robertson.