Moscow to allow use of force in Bosnia: West struggles to prevent revival of old Russian alliance with Slavs of Serbia

RUSSIA appears ready to drop its objections to a Western-backed United Nations Security Council resolution that would permit the use of force to stop Serbian military flights in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But doubts are growing in Western capitals over whether, in the long run, Russia will continue to support Western policy towards the former Yugoslavia.

Russia, never enthusiastic about military action against the Serbs, has this month resisted American pressure for the UN resolution's quick passage. But Andrei Kozyrev, the Foreign Minister, said on Tuesday that Russia 'if necessary will take joint measures to punish' those violating Bosnia's no-fly zone. The Russians are reluctant to be seen as approving US-led air strikes against Serbian targets, but they will not block the resolution if it avoids singling out the Serbs by name.

Britain, and to a lesser extent France, have had doubts about force. But, in public at least, both are becoming more anti-Serbian. John Major, in an interview with the European published today, accused Serbia of 'arrogance in defying the UN Security Council' and said the West had 'no choice but to increase the pressure'.

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, yesterday asked the West to await the outcome of peace talks in Geneva on 2 January between the leaders of the Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs. 'Before having additional sanctions, let us try once more for a peaceful solution,' he said. 'Let us give another chance to the peace process.'

Both the UN chief and Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serbs' leader, warned that UN peacekeepers and aid workers might have to leave Bosnia if the Security Council passed the proposed resolution. Serbian leaders, meanwhile, accused the Muslims of launching an offensive to lift the siege of Sarajevo, but UN officials said there was no evidence to support the charge.

Russia's problem is that an argument is raging in Moscow over how closely its foreign policy should match that of the West. The debate reflects the power struggle between reformists such as President Boris Yeltsin and Mr Kozyrev and their conservative rivals, who this month flexed their muscles so effectively in the Congress of People's Deputies.

The conservatives contend that Mr Yeltsin and Mr Kozyrev have betrayed Russia by not using its Security Council veto to block a string of anti-Serbian resolutions this year. They see Serbia as a natural Russian ally, partly because it is a fellow-Slavic nation and friend since the 19th century, but also because they think that the West's Balkan policies have expanded German influence in a region of vital interest to Russia. Other Russians worry that the collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism in Eastern Europe has brought German influence up to Russia's borders.

A former KGB general, Alexander Sterligov, said this month that Russian 'volunteer battalions, which will help out our brothers in Yugoslavia, are being formed by advocates of Slavic nationalism'. Similar volunteers have turned up this year in the Baltic states and Moldova to assist local Slavs. In the Balkans, they regard support for the Serbs as a counter-balance to the plans of Islamic states to send arms to Bosnia's Muslims.

The Supreme Soviet, Russia's standing legislature, adopted a resolution on 17 December reflecting the conservatives' views. It said Russia should veto Western military intervention in the former Yugoslavia, prevent the lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnia's government, and ensure sanctions were passed against 'all parties to the conflict' rather than the Serbs alone.

Russia's Foreign Ministry criticised the resolution as 'meddling by non-professionals', but Western diplomats are uncertain how long Mr Kozyrev and his allies in the ministry will keep control of foreign policy.

One important liberal, Fyodor Shelov-Kovadyayev, who was First Deputy Foreign Minister, was compelled to resign last October, and Mr Kozyrev is the hardliners' next target.

Even Mr Yeltsin is sensitive to the charge that the West takes Russian support too much for granted. He conceded this month that the Russian legislature had the right to approve his choice of foreign minister.

Another sign of the conservatives' victory was that Yuri Skokov, secretary of the unelected Security Council, was given extra powers over foreign policy. Mr Skokov spent 30 years in the Soviet military-industrial complex and is not pro-Western.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Network Technician

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run IT service busi...

Recruitment Genius: Network Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run IT service busi...

Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000

£14000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued success, this ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works