Moscow and the Yugoslav Secession Crisis
Igor A. Zevelev and Sharyl Cross
The outbreak of war following the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991-1992 presented the world community with a major conflict in the heart of Europe. The Yugoslav war of secession provided a test case for defining new rules of diplomacy in the world community following the collapse of the communist bloc. Among the most significant international aspects of the war would be the reaction of the newly established successor of the former Soviet empire, the Russian Federation.
This chapter describes and analyzes the global interests and domestic forces shaping Russia's policy toward the Yugoslav conflict. Moscow's policy is consistent with that of a nation possessing significant ties to the region and committed to preserving its status as a major world player.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia stressed that it was opening the first chapter in its foreign policy. To some extent this was true, because Russia although a superpower like its predecessor, at least in terms of vast physical size and nuclear capacity, has found itself in a painful process of national reconstruction in the midst of deep economic, social, and psychological crises. To some extent, however, Russia tried to continue the ambitious policy of the Soviet empire, at least rhetorically.
There are two key elements in the new Russian foreign policy. First, the Yeltsin leadership has stated that the bordering newly independent states, or the so called "near abroad," constitute Russia's zone of vital national interest. A second priority has been to build cooperation and cultivate partnership with the West.