Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 71

Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Kosovo shifted into high gear yesterday as NATO foreign ministers convening in Brussels reiterated their intention to continue the bombing until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic accepts Western terms. With the NATO air campaign entering its twentieth day, however, there were also indications that Western leaders wanted to launch a new diplomatic initiative aimed at resolving the conflict–and were pondering an enhanced role for Russia in that effort. They restated their desire to “work constructively with Russia in reaching a political solution” to the crisis and suggested that the alliance might offer a role for Russian troops on any international peacekeeping force ultimately introduced into Kosovo.

In order to sweeten the deal for Moscow, NATO was said to be pondering a formulation by which the international peacekeeping force in a post-conflict Kosovo would be subordinated to an international organization other than NATO–probably the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This would placate the Russians to some degree. Having fought tooth and nail against NATO’s expanding its influence into the Balkans, Russia would certainly balk at the idea of placing its troops under NATO command. Meanwhile, Western leaders were said also to be mooting a proposal which would ultimately turn Kosovo into some sort of international protectorate. Under such a proposal, both the UN and Russia would have a role in administering the province (Reuters, AP, April 12; International Herald Tribune, April 13).

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will present the various Western proposals and thinking on the Kosovo conflict to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Oslo today. Although the two reportedly have been in close telephone contact throughout the crisis, today’s meeting will be their first since NATO began its air campaign against Yugoslavia. NATO leaders obviously see it as an opportunity not only to move the diplomatic process forward with regard to Kosovo, but also to mend fences with Russia, which has furiously denounced the NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. “We are all trying this week to get Russia back on board so that, if there is a chance for a diplomatic solution, it can play a constructive role,” a European diplomat was quoted as saying yesterday (International Herald Tribune, April 13).