Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 32

Moscow has continued in recent days to align itself diplomatically with hardline Yugoslav authorities in Belgrade. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov yesterday ruled out the possibility of punitive NATO military strikes on Yugoslavia and said that a NATO peacekeeping force could be introduced into the country only with Belgrade’s approval. Ivanov’s positions on those key issues coincide fully with Belgrade’s. As peace talks continued to sputter in Rambouillet, France, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic yesterday bluntly rejected NATO proposals calling for deployment of a 30,000-strong peacekeeping force in Yugoslavia to implement any possible peace settlement. Milutinovic also said that any NATO bombing of Yugoslavia would be a “crime against humanity” which would solve none of the region’s problems. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had warned of possible military reprisals against Yugoslavia in remarks on February 14.

Ivanov arrived in France over the weekend, along with Albright, to attend a meeting of the six-nation Contact Group. Yesterday Ivanov and Albright held talks separately with both the Yugoslav and the Kosovo Albanian delegations. Afterwards, Ivanov expressed optimism about prospects for the two sides to reach an agreement by noon on February 13–the deadline set by the Contact Group. That optimism, however, which Ivanov intimated was based on his belief in the “political will” of the two sides to reach a settlement, appeared to be shared by few of the Western diplomats attending the talks (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, RTR, February 15).

In remarks made on February 13 before a key Russian foreign policy council, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov told his audience that there could be no settlement of the conflict in Kosovo without Russia’s participation. “The Americans and the Europeans know this very well,” Primakov was quoted as saying. He added that the use of force by NATO in Yugoslavia would bring a result “twenty times worse than that which has taken place in Iraq” (Russian agencies, February 15). Russia has also been a vocal critic of U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq.