The Kremlin is struggling against supporters of the military assistance provision to Yugoslavia
Voting of the Duma about inclusion of Yugoslavia into the Russian-Belorussian Union increased the number of supporters of military assistance provision to Belgrade. Many members of the Federation Council stand on the similar positions. By majority of votes they spoke for lifting of arms embargo against Belgrade. If NATO, the “adventure in the geopolitics” launches the second stage and intervenes its ground troops into Yugoslavia, Russia “has to give up the arms embargo on weapons supply to Yugoslavia” – announced Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov during his meeting with Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia in the House of Veterans, dedicated to the 65 th anniversary of establishment of the Hero of Soviet Union rank.
Moscow Mayor is assured that such actions of Russia will be supported by its citizens, because the “we are not indifferent to the fate of fraternal people” – he stressed. Luzhkov says that NATO covers its aggression by the smokescreen of small nations “defending”. However the actions of this organization, according to Luzhkov, violate not only the UN Regulations, but also its own Regulations. The Regulations of NATO say that the bloc can perform military operations only in the zone “of its responsibility”, and Yugoslavia “has never been a zone of NATO responsibility”.
The Mayor says that the US “play the leading violin” in this conflict, and all the other countries “are guided or drawn into it through certain circumstances.” In many countries the confusion is felt. They ask themselves how to find the decent way out. NATO combat operations resulted in losses of lives of human beings, who have nothing to do with the Kosovo conflict, In addition, Luzhkov is sure that the conflict will be escalated.
Another Russian political leader, Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed, demonstrated the similar position. In his interview to Spiegel magazine from Hamburg he said: “Today Russia is able to stop the NATO operation against Yugoslavia For this President Yeltsin needs to immediately develop the state doctrine regarding the attitude towards the Balkans.”
According to him, the Russian position has to include three central points: first of all, it is necessary to recognize the operation of the alliance against Belgrade as aggression; second, it is necessary to declare Yugoslavia a sphere of vital Russian interests; third, it is necessary to define the scope of military assistance to Yugoslavia.
Answering the question of the magazine, if such approach will result in involvement of the Russian Armed Forces in combat operations against NATO on the Serb side, Lebed stressed that “on the contrary, this will allow the parrying of the large-scale aggression, unleashed by the West, in a civilized manner.” He added: “Otherwise the conflict will acquire global scale.” Outlining different variants of the Kosovo crisis resolving, Krasnoyarsk Governor offered deployment of an international peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo under the Russian command, which, according to him, would be approved by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. “However, Russia can guarantee sufficient autonomy to Kosovo” – added Lebed.
Yeltsin can not influence these politicians, to make them think and speak like it is done in the Kremlin. However, there are some officials, with whom the Kremlin can easily cope. For example, Yeltsin influences the Armed Forces and other security agencies. It is known, the Director of Presidential Administration Alexander Voloshin, reacting to the “belligerent statements of top-ranking officials in the Armed Forces”, regarding the Russia’s reaction to the NATO aggression, reported that “if they keep making such statements, contradicting to the presidential position, the authors of such statements will be immediately dismissed.” It is quite clear that he meant the statements of some generals about the necessity of military assistance provision to the “fraternal republic.” The names of generals are well known. These are not the supreme commanders of the Defense Ministry and General Staff. Meanwhile, some mass media published the reports about the possible dismissal of General Staff Chief General of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin.
How reliable are these rumors? The General Staff Chief post is the key post under conditions of military conflicts and threats to the country. At present it is the General Staff who monitors the situation, forecasts its development and organizes the measures for increase of the troops combat readiness. One of the Defense Ministry representatives, who wished to remain anonymous, said abut the rumors about the possible dismissal of Kvashnin: “You don’t change horses in midstream.”
He also explained the unfounded character of these rumors by the personal loyalty of Kvashnin to the President, which the general had demonstrated during the mutinous days of October 1993 and during the Chechen campaign, He also pointed at the “friendly” support of the General Staff Chief, provided by Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, and it is known that at present the Interior Minister is “the right arm of Yeltsin.”
Along with this, there are also some people in the Kremlin and the Kremlin, who are discontent with Kvashnin. They cannot “forgive” him the frankness during the closed meeting of the Duma on March 31, when the parliament members debated the Armed Forces problems. It is known that at that time Kvashnin actually denied the statements of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev about the necessity of quick formation of the United Command of Strategic Deterrence Forces (UCSDF). Kvashnin said that until 2005 the UCSDF would not be formed. According to him, this idea is being considered during development of the Armed Forces for the period after 2005.
The communist majority of the Duma supported Kvashnin, and he fell out of grace with the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, the sources in the General Staff point out that contradictions of the Defense Ministry and General Staff about the further improvement of the Strategic Nuclear Forces command and about the events on the Balkans “are not vital and important”. The Kremlin is also evidently far from these interior problems of the militaries. Under conditions of the socioeconomic crisis, growth of tension in the North Caucasus, NATO aggression and attempts of the President impeachment made by the Duma, the President needs the loyal troops and the apolitical and loyal generals.
The observers connect the personnel reshuffles in the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service with this facto. For example, new Interior Forces Commander Colonel General Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, is the adherent of stricter measures against Chechnya (sealing of the borders, firm adequate reaction to provocations and so on). Ovchinnikov is one of the authors of the mobile units formation in the Interior Forces. Their operations are possible only in close cooperation with the aviation (transportation and air dropping) and other units of the Defense Ministry. The General Staff Chief also calls for such cooperation in fulfillment of defense and security tasks, being interested in formation of the operational-strategic commands on theaters of combat operations. Thus, in case of any unrest in any point of Russia (including Moscow) the Interior Forces group will be able to doubled or tripled within a few days. This means that the presidential power in the country will be secured.
Meanwhile, reshuffles might still take place in the Defense Ministry. Military sources report that commanders of some military districts are to be replaced. The names of Moscow Military District Commander Leonty Kuznetsov and Far Eastern Military District Commander Victor Chechevatov are mentioned. The name of Kuznetsov is connected with his loyalty to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, being in opposition to the Kremlin. The name of Chechevatov is connected with his intentions to head the Russian forces group in Yugoslavia,
Thus, so far President Yeltsin controls the situation and does not generate any preconditions for political adventures and Russia’s involvement into the combat operations on the Balkans. However we can no rule out that through certain speculations around the conflict in Yugoslavia (saying that the military assistance and the alliance with Yugoslavia are destructive steps) the President might solve a part of his political problems. Against the background of further aggravation of political crisis in Russia and attempts of impeachment the Kremlin might conduct the radical personnel reshuffles, up to the Duma disbanding.