Washington Post: Kosovo, the tensest period in the relations between West and East

Washington Post: Kosovo, the tensest period in the relations between West and East

Pristina, March 25, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Elton Tota

In his speech last Tuesday, the president of Russia, Vladimir Puti referred to Kosovo 6 times and in a bizarre way considered its independence as a precedent for the Russian annexation of Crimea, begins the article of Strobe Talbott, former vice US Secretary of State. According to him, these two episodes are different.

There’s no doubt that Putin’s fixation over Kosovo is the cause for its separation from Serbia to provoke a lot of Russian phobia and the feeling of humiliation of the West at the beginning of ‘90s.

In spite of the end of the Cold War, Putin and his fellow countrymen  still believe that NATO remains a threat to Russia.

Alliance’s intervention in the Civil War in Bosnia confirmed this fear, because it was the Serbs of Bosnia, who were “ethnically cleansing” and perpetrating massacres on the Muslims of Bosnia, writes Strobe Talbott in the daily Washington Post.

To many Russians it was important for Serbs and Slavo-Orthodoxes not to be seen as the perpetrators of the first act of genocide in Europe since the end of the Second World War, but as “cousins” in language and religion who defend their communities and who were NATO victims.

In 1999, the Serb president, Slobodan Milosevic, frustrated by his incompetence to expand his country with Bosnia’s Serb inhabited areas, drove his rage toward the Southern province of Serbia, Kosovo, writes Talbot for Washington Post.

Russians see Ukraine as the cradle of their civilization the same way as Serbs see Kosovo as their holy land earned through the blood of their ancestors.

After diplomacy failed in putting an end to Miloshevic’s campaign for the displacement of Kosovars from their villages by killing thousands of them during this process, NATO bombarded Serbia for 78 days. This was the tensest period in the relations between East and West after the Cold War.

Strobd Talbott also writes that during his frequent journeys to Moscow, he has heard many Russians, including pro western reformators complaining that the post Cold War atmosphere would not survive NATO’s strike against Belgrade. Several senior officials accused NATO for supporting Chechens in their effort for cessation.

To put an end to the crisis, president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin sent his representative, Viktor Chernomirdin to Belgrade in order to put pressure on Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo and to accept an international peace keeping force, which would also include Russian units under the command of USA, in order not to formally be part of NATO.

In June 1999, writes Talbot, he had led a team from the US Department of State, White House and Pentagon to coordinate the final plans for the operation. After landing, we felt problems, writes Talbot, as Chernomirdin was politically isolated. The man who escorted him was General Leonid Ivashov and he was against the agreement for Russia-NATO joint deployment.

He had told us that Yeltsin was “ill”, which really meant that he was drunk. Civil officials that we met, were very nervous about the possibility of a military coup d’etat.

With the exemption of Putin, whom Talbot had met for the first time. As the chief of the Kremlin’s council for security, he did look one of those people who would soon lead the presidency. In our meeting, he managed to look relaxed and cautious. In a wise and unmistakable way, he distanced himself from Chernomirdin.

For no other reason besides the fact that he had read my KGB file, he mentioned the names of the two Russian poets, that I had studied in college, describes Strobe Talbott his first meeting with Putin.

But events went on like general Ivashov had said, that Russian army could detach itself from NATO and deploy in Kosovo in its own way.

Within a few hours, several small Russian units that monitored the ceasefire in Bosnia, passed through Southern Serbia in Kosovo, greeted as saviors by Serbs. Russian Foreign Ministry denied this and then issued a weak press release claiming that this operation was an accident.

The Russian contingent was deployed in an airport near the capital of Kosovo, until the multi nation NATO force entered the country from Macedonia. What seemed to be a trivial thing at the beginning, turned into a dangerous situation, where Russian army could be sent and start a war, writes Talbott for Washington Post.

But once again, Yeltsin appeased the crisis and restored the initial agreement. 9 years later, Kosovo proclaimed its independence. It goes without saying that it was not annexed by Albania/

Putin’s role in avoiding a military confrontation 15 years ago still remains a mystery, but his position was clear then and it’s important today. During the dangerous vacuum of authority in Moscow, when partnership between Russia and the West were at their most critical point, when Russian armed forces attempted to take the matter in their own hands and assist their Slav partners, the appointed successor of Yeltsin seemed to enjoy this moment, concludes former vice US Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott in his article for Washington Post. /ibna/