|Monday, 20 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 59, 99-03-25
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 59, 25 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 YELTSIN SEEKS TO REASSURE AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPARTRussian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Drachevskii met with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in Baku on 23 March, Interfax reported. Drachevskii delivered to Aliev a letter from President Yeltsin reassuring him that Russia's military cooperation with Armenia is not directed against Azerbaijan. In a 20 March letter to Yeltsin, Aliev had claimed that deliveries of Russian fighter aircraft and S-300 air defense missiles to the Russian military base in Armenia violate the agreement on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan and upset the military balance in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 1999). Drachevskii also told Aliev that Russia no longer insists on the "common state" principle as a basis for resolving the Karabakh conflict, according to Interfax. The OSCE Minsk Group, of which Russia is one of the three co- chairs, proposed that model last year, but Azerbaijan rejected it. LF
 U.S. MILITARY OFFICIAL DISCUSSES COOPERATION WITH GEORGIA, AZERBAIJANMajor-General Charles Wax, who is director of Plans and Policy for U.S. European Command Headquarters, held talks in Tbilisi on 22-23 March with senior Georgian parliamentary and Defense Ministry officials, Interfax reported. Parliamentary Defense and Security Committee chairman Revaz Adamia told journalists that the talks focused on broader Georgian participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Wax then traveled to Baku, where he met on 24 March with Defense Minister Safar Abiev and President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. Wax said his visit to Azerbaijan is of a fact-finding nature and that U.S. military cooperation with Azerbaijan should be balanced by similar cooperation with other countries in the region. Aliev termed such cooperation essential to stability throughout the Caucasus. Prior to Wax's arrival in Baku, Interfax quoted unnamed Azerbaijani diplomatic sources as saying that the U.S. delegation would inspect the former Soviet strategic bomber base located at Nasosnaya, near Baku. Unconfirmed reports suggest Azerbaijan has offered NATO the use of that base. LF
 GEORGIA ISSUES DECREE ON PIPELINE SECURITYGeorgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has issued a decree instructing an interdepartmental commission of the National Security Council to take the appropriate measures to ensure round-the- clock security of the Baku- Supsa oil pipeline, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 March. Meeting last week in Tbilisi, the Georgian and Azerbaijani defense ministers, Davit Tevzadze and Safar Abiev, signed a protocol on conducting joint exercises in Ukraine in April. Taking part in those exercises will be Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian battalions deployed to guard that pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 FORMER KAZAKH POLITICAL PRISONER CRITICIZES HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSESWorkers' Movement of Kazakhstan leader Madel Ismailov told journalists in Almaty on 24 March that government officials' claims that conditions in the country's prisons have improved since the adoption of a new criminal code are untrue, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported the following day. Ismailov, who was released last month after serving a one- year prison sentence for insulting Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, has vowed to organize a new movement to protect prisoners' rights. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN CLAIMS OWNERSHIP OF IMPOUNDED MIGSSenior officials in Kazakhstan on 24 March said that the six MiG-21 fighter aircraft impounded by Azerbaijani authorities at Baku's Bina airport belong to Kazakhstan and were bound for Slovakia, not Yugoslavia or North Korea, Reuters and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). A Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry statement said that the obsolete planes had been sold in 1998 to the Czech arms firm Agroplast on condition they be transported to the Czech Republic. But the Slovak Foreign Ministry told CTK on 24 March that the planes were to be transported directly to Agroplast's headquarters in Liberec, not via Slovakia. And a spokeswoman for Agroplast told CTK on 24 March that the company is not engaged in any business activities in the former Soviet Union. The Russian Embassy in Baku reported that the Azerbaijani authorities have arrested a Czech national who was on board the Russian aircraft that was transporting the MiGs. LF
 TYPHOID OUTBREAK IN TAJIKISTAN?Some 90 people in Tajikistan's Garm Oblast, half of them children under 15, have contracted an infection that International Red Cross officials believe may be typhoid, ITAR-TASS and AP-Blitz reported on 24-25 March. LF
 UKRAINE EXTRADITES BOMBING SUSPECTS TO UZBEKISTANThe Ukrainian government has extradited to Uzbekistan four Uzbeks apprehended in Kyiv earlier this month on suspicion of involvement in the 16 February bomb attacks in Tashkent, Interfax and AP reported on 24 March, quoting an Ukrainian Interior Ministry official (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18- 19 March 1999). Human Rights Watch had earlier appealed to Kyiv not to undertake such action. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO LAUNCHES AIR STRIKESAircraft belonging to eight member countries of the Atlantic alliance and cruise missiles struck military targets in more than a dozen cities and towns in Serbia, Kosova, and Montenegro. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London the next day that there were no NATO casualties and that no aircraft were lost. Serbian state-run television showed footage of a building in Novi Sad in flames and what the broadcast claimed were civilian casualties. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Third Army in the region that includes Kosova, told state-run television that the attackers hit more than 40 different targets but inflicted only "minimal" damage. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Brussels that the attacks will most likely continue for at least several days. This is the first time in its history that NATO has used force against a sovereign state. PM
 COOK OUTLINES NATO'S GOALSBritish Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the BBC on 25 March that the Atlantic alliance's "objective is to curb the capacity of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's army to repress the [Kosovar] Albanians. When that stops, the military action will stop. It can stop today if Milosevic returns to the negotiating table and recognizes [that] the peace plan we've put together offers not only a fair deal to [the Kosovar] Albanians but also a fair deal to Belgrade." The previous day in Washington, President Bill Clinton said that "the dangers of acting are far outweighed by the dangers of not acting," by which he meant that failure to act against Milosevic could lead to a wider war. Before the bombing began, Milosevic appeared on state-run television to appeal to all citizens to do everything possible to resist the attacks. PM
 ANNAN HAS MIXED REACTIONUN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement in New York on 24 March that it is "tragic that diplomacy has failed, but there are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace." He added, however, that the Security Council "should be involved in any decision to use force." PM
 DJUKANOVIC SAYS MILOSEVIC MUST CHANGE POLICIESMontenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said on state-run television on 24 March that Milosevic's policies led to the NATO air strikes. The Montenegrin president stressed that the bombings "are the tragic consequences of an irrational policy of confrontation with the entire world. This policy has led us into a dangerous adventure, the price of which is peace and the lives of Montenegrin citizens. Force will not bring peace. Our future is not in confrontation with the entire world and therefore I demand from Milosevic to halt the policy that has led to collective suffering of innocents and endangered the survival of the country," Djukanovic concluded. PM
 JOURNALISTS HARASSED IN SERBIAThe Yugoslav authorities declared a "state of emergency" throughout the country on 24 March. Meanwhile, police detained an unspecified number of foreign journalists in Belgrade and Prishtina and prevented them from sending footage abroad. A BBC reporter said the next morning that police "kicked in the doors" of an unspecified number of journalists' rooms in Prishtina's main hotel. PM
 RFE/RL INCREASES BROADCASTS TO CRISIS REGIONRFE/RL'S South Slavic Service increased its daily programming in Serbian by three-and-a-half hours on 24 March. It also doubled the length of its broadcasts to Kosova to make a total of one hour per day. Six local affiliates carry programming in both languages in Montenegro. PM
 NATO TANKS PATROL MACEDONIA'S BORDERAn unspecified number of tanks and armored personnel carriers belonging to the Atlantic alliance patrolled Macedonia's frontier with Serbia soon after the air strikes began, Reuters reported on 24 March. A NATO spokesman said in Skopje that "there have been no threats or moves by the Serb military [in the border area]. We are taking all precautionary measures and it would be a great mistake by the Serbs to threaten this country." Some 10,000 NATO soldiers are stationed in Macedonia. PM
 SERBS SHELL ALBANIAN VILLAGESKudusi Lama, who commands the Second Infantry Division in Kukes, told Reuters on 25 March that Serbian forces shelled two villages on Albanian territory and wounded the commander of the border post near Dobruna. Lama added that Serbian soldiers fired on Albanian troops, who did not return fire. But he stressed that Albanian soldiers will shoot if Serbian forces enter Albanian territory. PM
 ALBANIA WELCOMES NATO STRIKESAlbanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko told a press conference in Tirana on 24 March that "the Albanian government welcomes this NATO initiative, taken after all political means for solving the crisis in Kosova and ending Serbian repression were exhausted." Majko expressed his thanks to "the governments of all friendly countries, especially the U.S. government and President Clinton, who did not hesitate to intervene in the conflict," dpa reported. He repeated his long-standing offer to put all port and airport facilities at NATO's disposal for operations in Kosova. Majko added that "the Albanian government at this moment feels itself very close to the fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army [UCK], who are defending the nation against the Serbian war machine." Majko also said that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright assured him of U.S. protection against possible Serbian attacks during a telephone call after the air raids began. FS
 TIRANA TO CLEAN OUT ENVER'S BUNKERSTirana Mayor Albert Brojka on 24 March called on citizens to clean out the ubiquitous concrete bomb shelters built during the Stalinist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. He said 1,000 out of 1,330 shelters in the capital have been readied for use, Reuters reported. Information Minister Musa Ulqini said that Albanian troops on the border with Kosova are on a "second-level alert," which means that army personnel are confined to base. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo left for a meeting of the NATO Council in Brussels to "discuss immediate and direct threats" to the security of Albania. FS
 UCK WELCOMES STRIKES, PLEDGES TO CONTINUE FIGHTING...UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi told Albanian Television on 24 March that "the international community has finally decided to punish the criminal who has long turned Yugoslavia into a slaughter-house," by which he meant Milosevic. Krasniqi added that "we feel more at ease now, but we still shall continue our fight." He stressed that "as long as the Yugoslav army and the Serbian military and paramilitary units continue their attacks on Albanian villages and towns, the objective of the UCK will be the liberation of Kosova from these gangs," dpa reported. UCK leader Hashim Thaci said that the "independence of Kosova will not come as soon as we hoped, it will come [instead] as the result of a process.Ö It all depends on our organization and on our fighting in Kosova in the future," AP quoted him as saying. FS
 ...CALLS FOR ELECTIONSThaci also called on ethnic Albanian political parties to nominate candidates for a new Kosova government to replace President Ibrahim Rugova's shadow state. Thaci stressed that "in these difficult circumstances, Kosova needs a government. I ask all the political parties to send their proposals on candidates for the new government by 31 March to the UCK general staff headquarters," AP reported. FS
 SFOR STEPS UP SECURITY IN BOSNIANATO officials said in a statement in Sarajevo on 24 March that SFOR has closed all airports in Bosnia and banned all flights over Bosnian territory. SFOR also tightened security at its bases after receiving a series of unspecified threats from "persons who stand to gain by destabilizing the peace process," a spokesman told AP. SFOR commander General Montgomery Meigs said that "anyone who tries to impede freedom of movement, either SFOR's or that of the civilian populace, will be dealt with firmly." In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska Defense Minister Manojlo Milovanovic said that NATO seeks to "install bases in [Kosova] as part of its expansion to the east." PM
 SLOVENIA'S KUCAN PRAISES AIR STRIKESPresident Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 24 March that the Atlantic alliance is welcome to use Slovenian air space to launch air strikes against Serbia. He added that Solana assured him in a letter that NATO will protect Slovenia's security if is threatened. Kucan said that the attacks "had to happen," and he recalled "memories of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Srebrenica" and other places in Croatia and Bosnia that Serbian forces attacked during the 1991-1995 wars. Slovenia belongs to NATO's Partnership for Peace program. PM
 SLOVENIA GETS NEW INTERIOR MINISTERThe parliament on 24 March approved the appointment of writer Borut Suklje to head the Interior Ministry. He is a former minister of culture and belongs to Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party. Lawmakers removed Mirko Bandelj as interior minister in February because he had interfered with the parliament's right to supervise the work of the secret police, AP reported from Ljubljana. PM
 SOLANA REASSURES YUGOSLAVIA'S NEIGHBORSA senior NATO official on 24 March said that Secretary-General Solana has written letters to the premiers of Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia (all members of the Partnership for Peace program) saying that NATO will ensure their safety. BTA quoted Solana as writing to Premier Ivan Kostov that "Bulgaria's security is of a direct and concrete concern to NATO." In his letter to Romanian Premier Radu Vasile, Solana said that NATO would regard as "inadmissible" any Yugoslav threat on Romanian "territorial integrity, independence, and security," adding that NATO views the security of "all its partners" as directly "linked to that of its members," Romanian Radio reported. MS
 CONSTANTINESCU DENIES KOSOVA MILITARY INVOLVEMENT INTENTIONSpeaking on television before the NATO strikes were announced, President Emil Constantinescu on 24 March dismissed "[opposition] suggestions" that Romania intends to send combat troops to Kosova or that it has made such an offer to NATO. He said Bucharest intends to send "humanitarian aid" or peace keepers to the region but will do so only if the conflicting sides reach an agreement and in line with the resolutions approved by the parliament, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He also said Romania's support for NATO is the country's "only security option." Opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania chairman, former President Ion Iliescu said after the strikes began that "foreign military intervention can only complicate things, as the Vietnam experience teaches us." MS
 RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR WARNS ROMANIARussian ambassador Valerii Kenyaykin told journalists in Sibiu on 24 March said that if NATO attacks Yugoslavia, the conflict will "imminently extend" and will "also involve Romania," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He also warned that NATO intervention would create "a dangerous precedent" because "satisfying the demands of separatists in one country" would mean other separatists would make similar demands. "In the Balkans, there is no state that does not face this problem," he remarked. MS
 ROMANIAN WORKERS PROTEST LOW LIVING STANDARDSTens of thousands protested in Bucharest and other major cities to protest declining living standards, RFE/RL's correspondents in Romania reported. The demonstrations were organized by the four major labor confederations, which are threatening to hold a warning strike on 19 April and a general strike on 26 April. MS
 KOSTOV SAYS KOSOVA CRISIS POSES ECONOMIC, NOT SECURITY THREATPrime Minister Ivan Kostov, in an interview with state radio on 24 March, said there is no security threat for Bulgaria from the Kosova crisis because Bulgaria "is not perceived by neighboring Yugoslavia as an enemy." He added that Sofia has "played a positive role throughout, seeking a solution within Yugoslavia's existing borders." But he noted that NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia will pose an "economic threat," both because Bulgaria's transport links with Europe pass through Yugoslavia and because further destabilization in the Balkans will hamper foreign investments, Reuters reported. President Petar Stoyanov, in a radio address before a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security assured "Bulgarian mothers" that they have "no reason for alarm," as "Bulgarian soldiers will not be sent to participate in military operations." MS
[C] END NOTE
 THE ROOTS OF RUSSIAN-IRANIAN RAPPROCHEMENTBy Paul Goble
Russia increasingly views Iran as a potentially important ally in three key areas. But in every one of them, Moscow's cooperation with Tehran puts the Russian government at odds not only with the U.S. and Turkey but also with the post-Soviet states of Central Asia and the Caucasus.
To the extent that Moscow seeks to extract additional financial resources from the West or to maintain ties with the southern members of the CIS it must sometimes play down or otherwise restrict its cooperation with Iran in certain areas, including in that country's growing nuclear power industry.
But such actions in no way change Moscow's calculations about the continuing utility of Iran in achieving Russia's foreign-policy goals. Consequently, any concessions to the West that Russian Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov may announce on nuclear issues are likely to be balanced by Russian efforts to firm up its links with Iran in other areas.
That is the message of an article about Russian-Iranian relations that appears in the current issue of the prestigious Russian foreign-policy journal, "International Affairs." Written by Viktor Vishnyakov, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Subcommittee for Issues of International Law, the article suggests that Russia views Iran "as a potential ally in many of the most important areas" of Moscow's foreign policy.
First of all, Vishnyakov says, Moscow sees Iran as playing a key role in Central Asia and the Caucasus. It does not challenge Russia's role there, nor does it oppose any expansion of Turkish influence in the region. Moreover, it generally shares Moscow's views on the status of the Caspian Sea and hence on possible pipeline routes to transport oil and gas from these regions to the West.
Consequently, Iran helps Moscow to shore up its influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus by helping both to prevent the countries in those regions from gaining the wealth and independence that exports would give them and to block the introduction of Western influence into a region that Moscow continues to view as its proper sphere of influence.
Second, the Duma leader argues, Moscow views Iran as another aggrieved outsider state that will join with Russia in opposing U.S. power. Drawing on the ideas of 19th-century Russian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Gorchakov, which Primakov has said should guide Russia's current approach, Vishnyakov says that such an alliance will allow Russia to revive its power on the international stage.
While Vishnyakov himself does not make much of this particular argument, he does not have to. Three other articles in the same issue of "International Affairs" are entirely devoted to Gorchakov--including one by Russia's current foreign minister, Igor Ivanov--and at least three more make reference to the 19th century prince who is rapidly becoming the Russian foreign-policy theorist for the 21st century.
Third (and this is the point to which Vishnyakov devotes most of his attention), Russia values Iran both for "cooperation in developing modern technologies"--a euphemism for nuclear power--and as a purchaser of Russian military equipment. Iran's purchases of such military products, he says, "make it possible to enhance Russia's role in solving regional problems."
Indeed, Vishnyakov opens his article with the claim that Russia's expanding ties with Iran are responsible for Tehran's willingness to explore closer ties with Baghdad's Saddam Hussein. He argues that those ties will contribute to regional stability but are likely to be seen by many countries, including the U.S., as pointing in a very different direction.
Vishnyakov also suggests that Iranian purchases of Russian military equipment and expertise in nuclear power can help Russia reconstruct itself, providing Moscow with both the cash and cooperation it needs to overcome its current economic difficulties.
And lest any third country think it can block the expansion of Russian- Iranian ties by extracting one or another concession, Vishnyakov warns, as the Duma did last year, that Moscow will view such "attempts to meddle in mutually advantageous cooperation between Russia and Iran in economic, science, and technology and other areas" as both "unlawful" and "unacceptable."
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty