RUSSIA AND CONFLICT IN YUGOSLAVIA

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Weakness of Moscow does not allow it to open Belgrade openly

Despite resistance of Moscow, NATO bombing of Yugoslavia continues. The peacekeeping mission of Yevgeny Primakov to Belgrade and Bonn also failed to bring any positive results. The West and the US demonstrate firmness, and we read confusion and uncertainty on the faces of Primakov and Sergeev. Only the semi-communist Duma and Federation Council, as usual, “know” what we are to do and offer launching of large-scale aid to Belgrade, including the volunteers and armament supply.

Meanwhile this question still remains unanswered by the Kremlin and the White House, where the real power is concentrated. On March 26 President Boris Yeltsin clearly specified the tasks, arising from the situation in Yugoslavia: this is primarily the “persistent work in the Security Council, in the UN and in OSCE to explain the Russia’s position, regarding convincing of our partners, that is US, NATO members and other countries, of the necessity of quick stopping of combat operations”, reported Sergei Prikhodko, deputy director of the Presidential Administration.

He added that the President “is permanently, daily, in the afternoon and in the night”, informed on the current situation around Kosovo. The President is permanently in touch with Premier Yevgeny Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He expressed the opinion that negotiations with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic are “not only the necessary, but also the only possible method of the Kosovo problem solving. But it is simply strange to negotiate when aircraft are flying over your head and these or those objects are bombed, is it not? That is why it is necessary to achieve stopping of these combat operations and immediate renewal of talks with Milosevic as soon as possible.” He specially stressed that “the Russian party has not stopped its work with Yugoslavia for a single moment.”

“We do not cherish any illusions about the leaders, involved into the Kosovo conflict. And we do not protect this or that leader, but protect the real principles of the current world order. We protect the necessity to act on the international arena, in particular during resolving of the regional conflicts, in accordance with the UN Regulations.”- stressed Prikhodko. He also added that events associated with Yugoslavia “will willy-nilly influence the character and atmosphere” of relations between Russia and its Western partners.” At any rate, for both parties it is equally “extremely important to preserve the huge positive potential in the political, economic and other spheres, which we have managed to form recently in cooperation.” He stressed that the Russian leadership “has enough nerves, enough patience not to come to extremes, not to surrender to emotions, but to pursue our line in relations not only with NATO and US, but also with all other countries, proceeding from its own state interests.”

“So far sending of the Russian military advisors to Yugoslavia is not discussed”- announced Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the General Staff. According to him, “Russia very actively exerts its influence to stop the war in Yugoslavia, unleashed by NATO”, but did not explain how Russia exerts its influence. The General Staff stressed the high combat-readiness of the Yugoslav Armed Forces. Its representatives pointed out that “the Yugoslav Ground Forces are armed with 1,360 tanks of Soviet manufacture, more than 300 armored personnel carriers and combat reconnaissance vehicles, around 3,000 artillery pieces of different caliber, 1,665mortars and 750 anti-armor guns. In addition, the Armed Forces possess many anti-armor missile systems fagot and Malyutka. Taking into account the good training and high morale of the Yugoslav Armed Forces, as well as the terrain relief and climatic peculiarities, we are to expect high losses on the part of NATO.”

NATO troops will also have losses in the assault aviation. Unlike the heavy bombers, which launched missiles at the ground targets without entering the zone of the Yugoslav air defense operation, the assault aircraft will have top perform flight missions on medium and low altitude.

“This means that the assault aviation will be exposed to the powerful fire of air defense artillery (Yugoslavia possesses 2,000 air defense guns) and mobile missiles of the Soviet manufacture Kub, Buk, Tor, as well as portable Igla and Strela. The big aviation losses will sober up the NATO command, and will also make successful offensive of the ground forces impossible without the power air support.”- said Vladimir Petrovsky, an independent military expert and specialists of the Military Sciences Academy. His opinion differs from the forecast of the General Staff. Its representatives do not rule out the possibility of the ground stage of the NATO operation in Yugoslavia. “The NATO forces in the conflict area is build up”,- announced colonel general Yury Baluevsky, director of the Main Operational Department. “We have the veritable information about removal of American warships to the area, as well as about removal of a German brigade to the conflict area.”- added the general.

Although official leadership of NATO does not speak about the possibility of the ground operation, some commanders make the statements about this. For example, two former commanders of the UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, British general Michael Rose and French general Philip Moriyon, spoke for a ground operation of NATO in Yugoslavia on pages of the French press.

Rose says that having delivered missile and bomb blows on Yugoslavia, NATO was wrong in the choice of the strategy. In his interview to Figaro newspaper (Paris) he reported that through the air strikes alone it is impossible to achieve the goals of the combat operation. According to him, NATO is unable to damage or destroy the military potential of the Yugoslav Armed Forces in such a way. To destroy tanks, artillery guns and moreover small arms a ground operation is needed. According to Rose, NATO ought to deploy big ground forces along the borders of Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania. Thus it would have prevented spreading of the conflict and would have better controlled operations of the Kosovo Liberation Army and arm and train it in the future, “if Yugoslav President Milosevic does not understand the warning.” The French general says: “The war can not be confined to the air strikes only. Launching of a ground operation will undoubtedly cause the anger of the patriotically-minded Serbs all over the world, but I do not see any other alternative.” He added: “Of course, there will be losses of servicemen, but the soldiers have to be ready not only to kill, but to die as well.”

According to the General Staff, a ground group of about 13,000 people strong is currently concentrated around Yugoslavia. In addition, more than 30,000 NATO servicemen, belonging to the IFOR, are deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their participation in the ground aggression against Yugoslavia is unlikely, but the NATO units in Bosnia and Herzegovina might become the objects of Belgrade attacks themselves. To enter Kosovo NATO well need a group of at least 200,000 servicemen, which is equivalent to 20 units. According to the General Staff forecasts, up to 10% of this group might be killed.

Moscow broke its relations with the NATO leadership and does not participate in the contacts with NATO anymore. The peacekeeping brigade in Bosnia was removed from subordination to NATO. Russia sent warships of the Black Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean Sea and carries out intensive reconnaissance of the conflict area on the Balkans from the space and evidently shares its information with Yugoslavia. It is possible that former officers of the Russian Armed Forces, air defense specialists, who participated in combat operations in Vietnam, Egypt and other countries, already arrived in Yugoslavia. Their combat experience might be very handy. Meanwhile so far Moscow officially does not break the regime of sanctions against Belgrade. Being very much dependent on the West financially, it tries to protect the interests of Yugoslavia by peaceful diplomatic methods. At any rate, if the conflict is drawn out and NATO starts the ground stage of its operation, it is quite likely that the assistance will be given to Belgrade.

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