Russia's desire to maintain its status as a "great power," the ealities may dictate retrenchment from the foreign arena, at least for the next several years.
Finally, it is not out of the question that the conflict in the former Yugoslavia could precipitate the onset of a new East-West standoff. The appeals of Russia's anti Western imperialist and nationalist forces will gain greater acceptance if economic conditions continue to worsen. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has suffered a tremendous blow to his credibility as a result of his handling of the conflict in Chechnya. He took vehement criticism from prominent figures associated with the democratic camp. In the wake of the Chechen operation, it has become evident that Yeltsin is increasingly relying upon his hardline Security Council. Estimates indicate that the cost of the war will further deplete limited government resources and aggravate an already desperate economic situation.
Russia may be inching closer to a return to authoritarian rule. Nationalist sentiment could rise even more and Russia may begin to display an increasingly anti Western policy. Russia itself may become consumed in Christian versus Muslim disputes, strengthening sympathy with the Serbs. If the hardline manages to capture control, the war in the former Yugoslavia could be exploited as a means to divert the attention of the population from internal problems. The West may be targeted with responsibility for all of Russia's present difficulties and concomitantly, unjust treatment of the Serbs. In Huntington's terms, and perhaps consistent with Dostoevsky's prediction, the war ravaging the former Yugoslavia could represent the beginning of a new era of Orthodox versus Muslim or Orthodox versus Western clash of civilizations.
Sharyl Cross would like to acknowledge that research for this article was supported by a grant offered to her from the International Research and Exchanges Board, with funds provided by the US Department of State (Title VIII) and National Endowment for the Humanities. None of these organizations is responsible for the views expressed.