MILITARY AND POLITICAL ASPECTS OF THE YUGOSLAVIAN CRISIS

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NATO’s force actions

The conflict in Kosovo has been one of the major problems for the international community for the last several weeks. Agitation about the Kosovo conflict has been heating up the political atmosphere in Russia too. On October 14, Duma adopted a draft bill “On a threat of NATO’s unleashing a war against the Union Republic of Yugoslavia. 307 deputes voted for adopting the bill, 6 – against it.

As it is stressed in the document, State Duma unconditionally condemns any aggressive attempts on Yugoslavia, it also says that in case of unleashing military activities by NATO member countries, a serious damage will be inflicted on their relations with Russian Federation; there will be escalation of tension in Europe and in the world.

State Duma “expresses its extreme concern about NATO plans to invade of the sovereign Yugoslavia and considers all political and military preparations of NATO member countries as strategic preparation of a bridgehead for invasion of Russia.” Russian parliamentarians think, that in view of the current heaviest political, economic and social crisis in Russian Federation NATO invasion of Yugoslavia can be considered as a hostile action towards Russia.

It is also stated in the document, that NATO invasion of Yugoslavia will result in “hundreds and thousands of casualties, socio-economic destabilisation in the Balkan region; it will inevitably involve a number of states of the Central Europe and the Mediterranean.” A special stress is put on great significance of the Russian-Yugoslavian relations for the Russian economy, political and defence union, crucial for strengthening both countries security in view of NATO’s eastward expansion. State Duma, expressing friendly attitude towards the people of the Republic of Yugoslavia, emphasises “extreme necessity for elimination of the military threat to this state, and also calls all organs of power of the Russian Federation and public organisations for further development of cooperation between the Russian Federation and Republic of Yugoslavia.”

State Duma “recognises necessity for sending a group of deputies to Yugoslavia for examining and evaluating the situation in Kosovo,” reads the document. State Duma “states that unleashing war actions is impermissible and calls all parliaments to stand against the aggression against the Republic of Yugoslavia and support peaceful initiatives of the Russian Federation.”

It is, however, clear, that NATO has made concessions, by having postponed its force action against the Yugoslavian troops for 96 hours. As the NATO General Secretary Javier Solana stated at a press-conference, armed forces of the alliance will be ready to act, if negotiations on diplomatic resolution of the crisis will not result in Yugoslavian president Sloboda Milosevic’s compliance with the international community’s demands. This decision was made after consultations of the NATO Council with the US envoy Richard Holbrooke, who made a trip to Brussels in an interval of his talks with the Yugoslavian president. If these talks will gain diplomatic success, use of force can be avoided, stressed NATO General Secretary.

Is NATO continuing to cooperate with Russia in settling the crisis? Answering this question, Solana pointed out, that consultations with Russia are underway. Both NATO and Russia have common purposes in solving this problem and NATO hopes that joint pressure on Belgrade will help avoid force actions.

Commenting on talks held by Holbrooke in Belgrade, Solana called them “important steps in the right direction,” in particular regarding Belgrade’s consent to the international control of fulfilling Resolution 1199 of the UNO Security Council. According to Solana, this control could be organised by the OSCE.

Addressing Duma deputies, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stated “the situation in Kosovo is being exploited by extremists and separatists.” Ivanov stressed, that the situation in Kosovo is “a domestic conflict of Yugoslavia, and that no one questions the territorial integrity of this country.” Yet this conflict “should be resolved to make sure it does not threaten stability in the Balkan region.” The minister gave a detailed report about the progress of negotiations on the Kosovo situation. “In the course of the last several weeks there was struggle between two tendencies,” said Ivanov, “Western countries were insisting on a force punishment of Belgrade, whereas our opinion was that problems of ethnic, national origin cannot be resolved by force methods.”

Ivanov added, “meticulous political work is necessary for elaborating legal foundations, allowing people of different ethnic groups, to live together and enjoy normal conditions for their development.” Ivanov said, “there is a great degree of assuredness, that we led away the threat of a military action in Yugoslavia, though it cannot be fully excluded.” Therefore, the possibility of a force solution of the situation in Kosovo remains. And, despite Belgrade’s declaring its readiness to comply with the UNO’s demands, NATO is still preparing to “punish rebellious Serbs.”

How can this happen? Lets take the most negative scenario. Most likely, massive airstrikes will be made on military garrisons, ships, positions where Yugoslavian troops are concentrated. In that case, there will be casualties not only among the military personnel, but civilian population too. Naturally, these actions of the USA and their allies will be defined as acts of aggression. Enacted without the UNO sanction, they are likely to cause retaliation on the part of Yugoslavia and its allies.

The Yugoslavian army, that has for almost 10 years been involved in permanent interethnic conflicts, has sufficient combat skills and is considered one of the most efficient armies in Europe. Its size is almost 100 thousand people. Besides, the Yugoslavian troops are being refilled by reservists; constant military manoeuvres and training activities are held; intensive building of engineering facilities is taking place. Mountains and lots of forests provide a reliable to shelter to the troops and make it difficult for the NATO armed forces to conduct effective reconnaissance.

One can say with a high degree of probability, that possible airstrikes can be successful for the alliance only where the military fortifications are stationary. But according to some open sources, there have been prepared reserve shelters and fortifications; AAF, considered to be rather powerful, have been put on a permanent combat duty. Eight AAF regiments are armed with missile complexes S-75 and S-125. Some unconfirmed sources believe Yugoslavians also gave S-300 complexes, as well as a big number of tactical AAF complexes Strela-1, Strela 2 (3), etc. Therefore, observers admit, that NATO airstrikes will be met with a due response. In addition to its efficient AAF facilities, Belgrade has tactical missiles and jet fire complexes, as well as a sufficient number of MIG-21, MIG-29 combat planes, and some 30 MI-24 helicopters, capable of inflicting strikes in the radius of 15 to 200 kilometers.

Observers do not exclude, that in case of aggression, Yugoslavia will undertake response measures, including bombing of positions and ships from where NATO military aircraft took off for combat mission. It is quite possible, that airstrikes will be inflicted on the US troops deployed in Bosnia; also “revenge acts” may take place in the anti-Yugoslavian coalition countries. At the present moment, Russia and Belorussia announced their resolute support of Yugoslavia, in case the aggression against this country is unleashed.

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