Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 59

Amid reports that Russia would put its military forces on heightened alert in the event of NATO air attacks on Serbia, there were also suggestions that Moscow might reconsider its observance of the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia. During a television interview on March 23, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that an attack by NATO on Serbia would breach the UN charter and thus undermine the legal force of all UN resolutions pertaining to Kosovo. One of the consequences of this development, he intimated, might be that Russia reconsiders the arms embargo (NTV, March 23).

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, meanwhile, was quoted yesterday as saying that any decision regarding possible military aid to Yugoslavia would have to be decided by the Russian Security Council. But he suggested that the issue had not been discussed during a council meeting earlier in the day. Russian State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev dispensed with such niceties. During an official visit to Peru yesterday he said that Russia would provide immediate military aid to Yugoslavia in the event of NATO strikes (Itar-Tass, March 24).

At the same time, however, Russian President Boris Yeltsin appeared to rule out the use of direct force to counter NATO attacks against Yugoslavia. Instead, he said, the Kremlin will continue its efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kosovo conflict. “Russia has a number of extreme measures in store, but we decided not to use them so far,” Yeltsin said after meeting with his top ministers at the Kremlin. “Morally we are above America” (AP, March 25).

One Russian politician who spoke moderately yesterday was Yabloko leader Gennady Yavlinsky. He said in a radio broadcast that Moscow should not allow itself to be drawn into a war in the Balkans. According to Yavlinsky, various forces in Russia have conspired to involve Russia in hostilities in the Balkans. Those, he said, include the Communist Party faction in the Russian State Duma, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, a number of Russian generals and the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. Yavlinsky argued that Russia would be better served to pursue a policy aimed at pressuring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a Western-backed plan which would bring peacekeepers–including a Russian contingent–into Yugoslavia. He also said that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov should not have aborted his visit to the United States and described the move as a “Cold War-style gesture.” Finally, Yavlinsky embraced the view articulated recently by some observers in Moscow that Russia’s diplomats have become the dupes of Milosevic (Russian agencies, March 24).