Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 119

Moscow intensified its criticism of NATO policy toward Kosovo on June 19 as a top Russian general warned that NATO military actions in Kosovo without a UN mandate could create a new cold war in Europe. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s international cooperation department, was quoted as saying that NATO military action in Kosovo without the UN mandate “would lead to the start of a new Cold War.” Europe, he added, “does not want to go back to where [it was] a few years ago but someone is trying to push it there and it’s not Russia.” Ivashov said further that there “are still a thousand ways of securing a peaceful solution to the conflict, and that the military option is only the 1,001st way.” (Reuter, Russian agencies, June 19)

Citing traditional ties with Serbia, Moscow–in refusing to back proposed Western actions to end brutal attacks by Yugoslav forces on Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population–has made itself the main international supporter of the Belgrade authorities. Ivashov’s sniping at NATO on June 19 came as Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Kosovo Albanians, called on NATO for military intervention in Kosovo if Yugoslav forces continued their attacks there. (Reuter, June 19)

In his remarks on June 19, Ivashov also leveled several other criticisms at NATO. He restated Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev’s loud complaint that he had been misled by NATO leaders during talks in Belgrade that preceded NATO’s recent air exercises in Macedonia and Albania. Ivashov said that Russia had been notified about the exercises only a day and a half before they started and that “50 percent of the information we received was, to put it mildly, untrue.” He said that Russia is dissatisfied both with the information it received from NATO and with the alliance’s barring Moscow from the earlier stages of planning such exercises.

In addition, Ivashov intimated that the decision to launch the air exercises had been railroaded through NATO without a proper consensus. He accused the NATO leadership of running roughshod over Europe, ignoring the opinions of its partners and trying to turn itself into Europe’s policeman. Ivashov suggested that Russia had thus far limited its participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program because of its reservations. Finally, Ivashov said that Lieutenant General Viktor Zavarzin, the Russian envoy to NATO recalled to Moscow on June 16, would be in no hurry to return to Brussels. (Reuter, Russian agencies, June 19) Some in Moscow claimed that Zavarzin’s recall was a sign of protest over the NATO air exercises in Albania and Macedonia, though there were also reports that his departure from Brussels had been planned prior to those operations.