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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Condemn Both Sides In Kosovo War




The favorite motif for lamentation by the Russian political class in recent years has been complaints that Moscow's point of view is not getting sufficient attention in Washington, London and Brussels. "They did not confer with us, our point of view was ignored, they did not even phone President Yeltsin": Such has been Moscow's spontaneous reaction to many events of recent years. The Russian political class - or, as it calls itself with touching self-adoration, "the Russian political elite" - is made up of the very same people who saw themselves as the Soviet political class and in that capacity ineptly lost the Cold War.


But now it seems the hour of political revenge that the Russian political class has long awaited has arrived. There is an endless stream of foreign dignitaries coming to Moscow to have the honor of meeting with Russian leaders. Yeltsin can, just like the regional Communist Party boss he was in his youth, bawl out Bill Clinton on the telephone and in a face-to-face meeting with Jacques Chirac, and refuse an audience with Jose Maria Aznar.


NATO has gotten itself into a difficult military, political and moral situation. The air bombardment has not prevented massive repressions by Serbian troops against Albanians, but has resulted in increasing numbers of civilian casualties. NATO is categorically unwilling and unable to introduce ground troops.


Western European public opinion, shocked by the suffering of the Albanian population, has supported NATO, but with every additional unit of "collateral damage," this support is being eroded.


NATO now badly needs Moscow's mediating efforts in order to get out of the situation that has developed without losing face. Moscow is being courted. And thus the golden hour of revenge for all humiliations has arrived. Hundreds of statements, articles and interviews appear each day full of noble indignation directed toward NATO. The alliance submissively listens to all of it and continues with extreme deference to speak of the extremely constructive role of Moscow in general, and of Colonel General Ivashov, who has called NATO "a criminal organization which has no right to exist," in particular.


Moscow is doing everything right, developing its diplomatic success. With the exception of one detail. Not one Russian politician has found it in himself to utter one word of condemnation of Milosevic's beastly atrocities in Kosovo, or of compassion for the suffering of the Albanians.


Moscow has been striving to play a leading role in Europe and the world, and is now missing a unique opportunity. By condemning both NATO's bombing and Milosevic's crimes, Moscow would capture the imagination of European public opinion and secure a prominent position in the future system of European security. As it is, its indignation at NATO's actions looks hypocritical and politically calculated. All the more so coming out of the mouths of people who not long ago used aerial and artillery bombardment to destroy tens of thousands of their fellow citizens in Chechnya.


Why is it that Moscow cannot understand simple things, like that which Taya Rukovina, a 12-year-old Slovenian girl, told Yeltsin: "Bombing cannot solve any problems, but one may not kill and torture innocent people, as the Serb soldiers are doing in Kosovo."