Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NATO Airstrikes Seen through Russian Eyes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

NATO Airstrikes Seen through Russian Eyes

Article excerpt

NATO'S airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs - the only combat missions that the United States-led alliance has undertaken in its 46-year history - may be remembered less as the catalyst for a settlement in Bosnia than as the opening round of a new cold war.

Since last year, Moscow has repeatedly raised restrained but serious objections to NATO's military intervention in Bosnia and to the alliance's plans for expansion into East Central Europe - objections that Washington has blithely dismissed.

Finally, in a series of declarations, Russian President Boris Yeltsin dropped his measured language to issue his sternest warning yet. Pointing to the alliance's air attacks as evidence, he declared that Russia has much to fear from a NATO with an expanded reach. NATO's current operations and its future intentions, he said, will lead to "a return to two armed camps that are at war with one another." The US, however, still gives no indication that it appreciates the gravity of its actions and seems unlikely to alter the dangerous direction of its policy toward areas within Moscow's historical area of interest.

Rather, most American observers claim that Yeltsin's objections are meant merely to forestall criticism by Russia's extreme nationalists. These arguments assume that NATO military intervention troubles only "extremist" Russians. But Washington should have no illusions: Opposition to NATO's attacks and plans for expansion is probably the one major foreign policy issue on which virtually the entire Russian political class is united. Even devoted liberals and partisans of good relations with the West, such as legislator Alexei Arbatov, fear their old superpower nemesis is encroaching on their regional interests and bullying Russia by threatening its friends.

NATO, after all, was supposedly designed as a defensive alliance to repel a military attack on its member states. But in Bosnia, it has radically extended its writ by intervening within a state unconnected to the alliance. Furthermore, from Moscow's perspective, the US, by pushing to bring its powerful military alliance to Russia's borders, has reneged on a bargain it struck with Russia at the end of the cold war. Moscow agreed to quit Eastern Europe and to allow German reunification - a development that, given the history of German-Russian relations in the 20th century, Russia regarded with trepidation. Also, Moscow acceded to the continued existence of an alliance that had been hostile to it and even agreed to the inclusion of the newly reunified Germany in that alliance. …

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