NATO Will Not Halt Attacks for Easter.
BY By Simon Saradzhyan.
WC 519 words
PD 2 April 1999
SN The Moscow Times
CY (c) 1999 Independent Press.
NATO's refusal to stop bombing Yugoslavia because of the Easter period will further alienate Russia from the West and give Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic another weapon in his propaganda war, experts said Thursday.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said at a Thursday briefing in Brussels that the alliance will continue air raids until Milosevic stops the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, where the population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.
"Some say we have been living in a totally different country since these raids began, in a country where almost everyone has come to believe that Russia should not retreat any further, but should make its last stand. Any air raids at Easter will boost these beliefs," said Alexander Pikayev, military analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center.
Pikayev said such raids will make it even more difficult to resist the flood of demands from parliament as well as from the general public to send advanced air-defense systems to Yugoslavia.
The Easter period for Catholic and Protestant faiths begins Friday with Good Friday. The Orthodox Church, to which most Serbs belong, celebrates Easter a week later.
The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned the decision to ignore Easter, and Russia's top Roman Catholic cleric, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, said it was proof of NATO leaders' "spiritual impoverishment."
Although the United States and Britain halted their bombing operation in Iraq in December because of the holy Moslem month of Ramadan, NATO said this campaign is different.
Easing the airstrikes "would be a blank check for Milosevic to continue the killing," said German General Klaus Naumann, chairman of NATO's military committee.
NATO representatives reached by telephone said only Milosevic should be held responsible.
"We will stop only if he stops killing and expelling people on a daily basis," a NATO official said in a telephone interview from Brussels. "We have not chosen the moment really."
While most definitely poised to further alienate Russia, any bombs that are dropped during Easter week will hardly be "the last straw" for Russia and lead to the arming of Yugoslavia, said Dmitry Yevstafyev of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies.
The sending of NATO ground troops, however, would be likely to prompt Russia to reinforce the Yugoslav army, Yevstafyev said.
He also said that any bombings during Easter will allow Yugoslavia to win another victory in the propaganda war.
Even Russia's Moslem clerics believed NATO should call a truce, said a representative of the Spiritual Administration of Moslems of Central Russia. He added, though, that Serbian leaders also bore some of the blame for any Easter raids because of their treatment of the people in Kosovo.
Pikayev said the United States had other motivation for easing its airstrikes on Iraq during Ramadan.
He said Washington wanted to avoid alienating the Moslem powers of the oil-rich Persian Gulf as well as to avert terrorist attacks of Islamic fundamentalists.
"There is no such thing as Orthodox Christian terrorism, so they [the United States] have nothing to fear in this case," Pikayev said.
(c) 1999 Independent Press.