Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 148

The sense that Moscow may be trying, in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis, to shift to a more balanced policy in the Balkans was suggested by President Boris Yeltsin’s call on July 30 for closer relations between Russia and the West. In comments made as the Sarajevo summit was getting underway, Yeltsin told reporters that it is a “strategic, global task” for Moscow “to restore the friendly relations with the United States, Germany, France and other nations which we had before” (AP, Russian agencies, July 30). Yeltsin’s words were among the strongest he has voiced on this subject since the June G-7 summit in Cologne. There, Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton took the first steps toward repairing bilateral relations and moving Russia and the West beyond the Kosovo crisis.

Another indication that Moscow may be changing gears a bit with regard to the Balkans is today’s visit to the Russian capital by President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro. Djukanovic, a long-time critic of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who has pursued friendly relations with the West, is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (Russian agencies, August 1). Coming in the aftermath of Yeltsin’s statements on the need to improve ties to the West, the arrival of Djukanovic has further fueled speculation that Moscow is considering distancing itself from Milosevic. That same impression has been reinforced of late by Stepashin, who both in Washington and in Sarajevo made statements to the effect that he “does not like Milosevic very much” and that the Yugoslav president “is also to blame for what happened in Yugoslavia” (Itar-Tass, July 30). Although mild by Western standards, those are among the strongest words of criticism to be directed at the Yugoslav strongman by a major Russian political figure.