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Fall of Russian Government is Bad News for Milosevic

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Stratfor 						0010 GMT, 990513  
 
SHIFT IN MOSCOW DRAMATICALLY INCREASES SERBIAN VULNERABILITY 
 
Primakovís fall is bad news for Milosevic. As we have argued from 
the beginning,  Milosevicís decision not to capitulate to NATO 
bombing was, to a great extent,  predicated on Russian support. 
Milosevicís sense was that with Primakov and Ivanov in  charge 
Serbia could not be completely isolated by the West. Indeed, his 
sense was that  NATO would have to limit or end the bombing in 
order not to drive the Russians too far  into opposition. The 
Russians have been signaling for days that in their view Milosevic,  
and not the West, was the block to a peace settlement. Suddenly, 
Milosevic must face the  fact that the hints may be turning into a 
policy.

It is possible that this has been the rationale for NATOís 
continuation of the war. By most  reads, the bombing campaign has 
not been successful. Stubborn continuation of the  bombing 
appeared to us and to others as irrational. However, assuming that 
NATO and  Washington had intelligence that Yeltsin was planning 
to oust Primakov, an interesting  assumption given that Strobe 
Talbott was in Moscow as Yeltsinís strike took place,  Washington 
might have been waiting for just this moment. There is now a 
proposal on the  plate and Milosevic must decide what he is going 
to do, without the warmest support  Russia has to offer.

It has to be remembered that NATO cannot regard this as a 
permanent shift. In fact it may  be a very small window of 
opportunity. Primakovís ouster will raise the furies in the  Duma, 
and a very serious move is underway to impeach Yeltsin. Should 
Yeltsin have to  change course again, Serbia might shortly find 
more friendly faces in Moscow. Therefore,  NATO needs to end the 
war now. The primary hope is that Milosevic will feel the  isolation 
and accept some variation of the Chernomyrdin proposal. The 
alternative is a  massive increase in NATOís air campaign. The 
decision by Greece to close its airspace to  NATO aircraft enroute 
from Turkish bases indicates that NATO is, in fact, marshalling all  
of its available forces for a stunning blow at Serbia. It is doing this 
very publicly, in the  hope that Milosevic sees the threat, takes it 
seriously, and capitulates. NATO remains split  on intensifying the 
war. However, if Milosevic refuses to reach an agreement on 
NATOís  terms, trying to aim a knockout blow at Serbia from the 
air seems the logical next step. It  may include limited ground 
attacks on Kosovo from Albania.

For the first time in the war, NATO may have the upper hand. 
What Germany promised  on Russian loans, what the IMF will do, 
what Washington is prepared to do to solve  Russiaís financial 
problems, all remain to be seen. But this much is certain: Milosevic 
is  much more uneasy today than he was yesterday. The loss of his 
great power backing and  the threat of intense bombardment may 
together force him to modify his position.  Milosevic must make 
fateful decisions in the next day or two.  




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