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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Balancing Act in the Balkans

Andrei Kozyrev's warning of global war if the United States unilaterally lifts a United Nations arms embargo against Bosnia was the latest evidence of the balancing act Russia is forced to play in its Balkans policy, analysts said Wednesday. They pointed to the other half of Kozyrev's remarks during a Moscow meeting with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, in which the Russian foreign minister told his guest to accept a UN proposal to divide Bosnia or face losing Russia's support. Kozyrev's words Wednesday underline Russia's tricky position. Under pressure to support the Serbs from the influential nationalist lobby in parliament, Moscow cannot be seen as pandering to the West. It therefore has to react clearly and sharply to events such as last week's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to allow arms sales to Bosnian Moslems. But on the other hand, as part of a five-nation "contact group" trying to resolve the Bosnian conflict with the country's division along ethnic lines, Russia has to appear to be carrying out its unofficially designated role of the only great power capable of influencing the Serbs, according to Sprios Economides, Balkan specialist at the London School of Economics. The perception that Russia holds sway over the Serbs peaked during Moscow's successful brokering of the Serb pullout from the hills around Sarajevo in February. But it foundered two months later when Russian efforts failed to stop a Serb offensive on the UN "safe haven" of Goradze. This failure led to a renewed call in the U.S. legislature for action to stop what many U.S. lawmakers see as the UN's inability to protect the Bosnians from annihilation. A vote by the U.S. Senate last month to allow arms sales to Bosnia led the State Duma, the Russian lower house, to respond by calling for Russia to lift UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. After the House vote last week, the Duma's foreign relations committee recommended Russia to withdraw from all sanctions against former Yugoslavia if the United States lifts the Bosnian embargo. Kozyrev's latest statement appeared aimed at heading off a further response from the Duma as well as warning American legislators, according to Yury Davydov of the USA-Canada Institute. "The government does not want a confrontation with the Duma," Davydov said. "It cannot be seen as the lackey of the United States." Karadzic, in Moscow to collect a literary prize from the nationalist Writers' Union, made a brief appearance in the Duma on Wednesday. He told The Moscow Times that he had come "for understanding and support." The Serb leader has never has a problem getting that from the lower house.