Hidden deep within the Kosovo crisis is Russia's growing resentment toward the United States by ordinary Russians, who blame US-sponsored reforms for their economic troubles.
Since US-backed NATO air-strikes began against Yugoslavia, Russians have protested around the world, but no place more than in their hometown, Moscow, where protesters pelted the embassies of the United States and other supporting NATO countries with eggs and bottles.
And that was just the beginning.
On the sixth day of air-strikes, masked assailants in a Jeep stopped outside the US embassy and tried to fire a grenade launcher at the building. Russian police rushing to the scene foiled their attempts with a rash exchange of gunfire. The gunman escaped.
Hard-line Communist and Nationalist Russian politicians are encouraging these protests. One Russian lawmaker wanted to boycott US goods. Another suggested moving the United Nations from New York to Geneva, a neutral site. Ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, festooned in a military uniform, even went so far as to declare NATO air-strikes the "beginning of World War III."
But the resentment doesn't stop at the rhetoric. Two days after the first raid on President Milosevic's Yugoslavia, the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, passed a four-page resolution by a 366-4 vote condemning NATO. In addition, they declared "solidarity with brotherly Yugoslavia," that the two ex-communist countries should stay together.
Since then, Russia has expelled NATO representatives in Moscow, refused all contact with alliance officials, called for the leaders of the world to charge the NATO leaders responsible for the attacks on Yugoslavia, and encouraged internal protests.
Offices set up in central Moscow, encouraged by Communist and Nationalist Russian politicians, are actively recruiting Russians, mostly young men, to fight the Americans. Belief being, US-led attacks pose a grave threat to their country.
Even more telling, the Russian Navy sent two nuclear warships, the Admiral Kuznetsov and Petr Velikhy, to sea for what Defense Ministry called "exercises."
Many historians argue the end of the Cold War. Perhaps it had ended, but if Kosovo was only an isolated case with Russia sentiment souring toward the US, then consider Russia's continued denouncement of the attacks on Iraq. Is Russia simply retaining its ties with the US until the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bails them out of their economic crunch?
Let's hope the resentment stops at eggs and bottles. Russian alone has some 7000 nuclear warheads reading and waiting for the new millennium. Are they Y2K compliant? We can only hope so.
Copyright March 31, 1999 by Thor Kirleis