Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 94

Indeed, it was difficult yesterday to determine the extent to which Russia’s domestic political struggle was a factor in the apparent hardening of Moscow’s position on Kosovo. Like Chirac, some U.S. officials apparently believe that the warnings coming out of Moscow recently may be intended primarily for domestic consumption, and that they do not reflect a real desire by the Kremlin either to withdraw from the negotiation process or to renounce the peace principles elaborated by Russia and the Group of Seven countries last week in Germany.

The G-7 meeting, which both sides proclaimed as a victory for the Kosovo peace process, produced a package of principles which were to serve as a basis for continuing negotiations aimed at settling the Kosovo conflict. They contained no mention of a halt in NATO’s bombing campaign as a precondition for peace talks. Talbott’s and Chirac’s talks in Moscow this week were intended in part to flesh out the principles–which remain vaguely worded–enunciated by Russia and the G-7 countries during last week’s meeting.

U.S. officials have also claimed in recent days to have received quiet assurances from Viktor Chernomyrdin–former prime minister and now Moscow’s pointman for the Kosovo crisis–that China would not use its UN Security Council veto in the event that Russia and the West agree on the terms of a Kosovo peace settlement. Chernomyrdin reportedly told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott that Beijing “would not get in the way” if that sort of agreement were reached (CNN, May 13). Chernomyrdin visited Beijing earlier this week and appeared to react sympathetically to Chinese warnings that Beijing would block any Kosovo peace settlement brought to the UN if it did not call for an immediate halt to NATO’s air campaign in Yugoslavia.

Despite Chernomyrdin’s assurances to Washington, the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday appeared to move a step closer to Beijing’s position during consultations at the United Nations. Russia’s UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, said that a UN Security Council resolution is being prepared on the basis of the principles elaborated by Russia and the G-7. But he warned that the council would be unlikely to adopt the resolution while NATO maintains its bombing campaign. “This doesn’t mean that the resolution discussion could not continue,” he said. “But I don’t see how a resolution could actually be adopted if there is no stop in the bombing” (Reuters, AP, March 13).