Russia's Uneasy Place in Europe Kosovo Crisis Underlines Moscow's Place as the Continent's Perennial

By Fred Weir, | The Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 1999 | Go to article overview

Russia's Uneasy Place in Europe Kosovo Crisis Underlines Moscow's Place as the Continent's Perennial


Fred Weir,, The Christian Science Monitor


History took a wrong turn at the end of the cold war and ended up in the deadly cul-de-sac of NATO's current war against Yugoslavia.

That, at least, is the overwhelming view in Moscow, where it is an article of faith that the West needs Russian diplomatic help to extract it from the Balkan quagmire. Any settlement, Russia believes, must be followed up with a sweeping revision of European security arrangements.

"The West was shocked by the intensity of Russian anger and indignation when NATO attacked Yugoslavia. But they shouldn't have been," says Viktor Levashov, a foreign-policy specialist at the Institute of Social and Political Studies in Moscow: "When the United States chose to ignore Russian hopes of partnership after the Soviet Union fell apart and decided to reshape Europe using NATO - a military alliance - as their instrument, the stage was set for disaster." As the Balkan conflict grinds on - despite yesterday's unconfirmed announcement by Belgrade of a partial troop withdrawal from Kosovo - tragic mistakes like NATO's attack on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade appear to deepen Russian fear and resentment. Opinion polls show two- thirds of respondents now see the Western alliance as "a direct threat to Russian security." "Our attitude toward the West over the past decade has been a long fall, from euphoria to disenchantment," says Georgi Shakhnazarov, a Kremlin foreign-policy adviser under former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. "Everybody thought the West would help us, teach us, bring us into its superior way of life. Now increasing numbers of Russians believe the US and other countries conspired to destroy the Soviet Union, to wreck our economy and reduce us to third-world status." The West's efforts to forge a new security order in Europe are seen as a chain of lies and power grabs at Moscow's expense. "Russia was told we would always be consulted on European security matters, that our permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council ensured our role," says Pavel Felgenhauer, military expert with the liberal daily Segodnya. "With this war the Security Council is shoved aside and NATO is attacking a sovereign state, a traditional friend of Russia," Mr. Felgenhauer says. "What do we believe now?" Many in the West find this attitude baffling. Russia is seen as a wayward and often obstructionist power that pleads for Western loans to shore up its bankrupt economy and then snarls angrily - even threatens World War III - when the US and its allies intervene in Iraq or the former Yugoslavia. Moscow's post-cold-war record is one of constantly demanding to be treated as a great power, but offering only grudging and belated help when the international community faces problems like Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's brutal "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovar Albanians. Javier Solana, NATO's secretary-general, complained last week that Russia's stubborn refusal to be a team player may even have aggravated the Balkan crisis. …

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Russia's Uneasy Place in Europe Kosovo Crisis Underlines Moscow's Place as the Continent's Perennial
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