Russia has issued a warning against a repeat of NATO’s Western military alliance’s Yugoslavia bombing campaign on its 22nd anniversary, as Washington’s top diplomat seeks to reunite the alliance for the first time under the administration’s banner. of the American president Joe Biden.
“Such evil, like NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia, must never be repeated,” the Moscow embassy in Belgrade, then the Yugoslav capital and now the capital of Serbia, said in a statement on Wednesday referring to the 1999 NATO attack on the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The statement argued that the attack violated “the basic principles of international law established in the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other international documents.”
The air campaign was launched in response to allegations that the Yugoslav security forces had carried out an ethnic cleansing campaign against ethnic Albanians in the fight against the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army. Both Russia and China used their permanent privileges as members of the United Nations Security Council to veto international actions, arguing the need for a peaceful settlement rather than the use of force.
NATO went ahead anyway, with Moscow protesting to this day.
“During the 78 days of the barbaric bombing, which was cynically portrayed as a ‘humanitarian intervention in the name of the rescue of refugees,’ some 2,000 civilians were killed,” the embassy said. “A significant part of the country’s industrial and infrastructure capacity was destroyed. Thousands of civilian buildings were destroyed. The use of depleted uranium munitions has caused irreversible contamination in various land and underground regions.”
The New York-based monitor Human Rights Watch put the number of Yugoslav civilians killed at around 500, although local authorities at the time put the figure closer to the Russian estimate.
Collateral damage from the campaign included the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, where US bombs killed at least three Chinese citizens and injured more than two dozen more.
The statement also complained of “enormous damage” not only to physical infrastructure but also “to the architecture of peace and security in Europe and international stability.”
Russia argued that the bombing paved the way for new interventions around the world, including “a whole series of Western operations with the deployment of forces initiated under the propagandist pronunciation, without the approval of the UN Security Council or with the interpretation perverted of the mandate assigned by the UNSC “.
“Russia will continue to resolutely advocate strict adherence to universal international legal standards, such as the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states,” the embassy said. “In that context, we will support all efforts that help Belgrade and Pristina achieve a sustainable and mutually acceptable solution that meets the interests of the Serbian people and international law.”
In a tweet, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mikhail Ulyanov called then-Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s decision to cancel high-level talks in the United States on NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia as “the first step. really and truly resonant towards a reversal of Russian foreign policy towards the protection of the civilized world order based on international law and the national interests of Russia. “
To mark a decade since NATO’s bombing of Libya, the Russian embassy in Washington recently accused the alliance of wrongly pursuing regime change against Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi “to the most devastating consequences” in shared comments. recently with Newsweek.
Amid strained ties with NATO today, Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Russian delegation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control, criticized what he called NATO’s “” containment of the Russian Federation “policy. during a Wednesday meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation at the European Forum for Security Cooperation This approach, he argued, was “counterproductive and only weakens stability in Europe.”
He called on NATO to choose between “containment or dialogue with our country.”
But that same day, the alliance for the first time hosted a high-profile guest, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who told reporters that he “had a long discussion about Russia” with his counterparts.
“I think we all hope that our relationship with Russia will remain challenging for the foreseeable future, but we are prepared for that,” Blinken said. “And ultimately, I think what we can hope for is to have a relationship with Russia that is at least predictable and stable, and given that, our intention is to engage Russia in ways that advance our interests while remaining very clear about the situation”. challenges it poses. “
He later named some specific areas of dispute between Washington and Moscow, warning of “new capabilities and military strategies that Russia has developed to challenge our alliances and undermine the rule-based order that guarantees our collective security.”
These include Moscow’s aggression in eastern Ukraine, its accumulation of forces, large-scale exercises and acts of intimidation in the Baltic and Black Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Upper North, its modernization of nuclear capabilities and its use of chemical weapons against critics on NATO soil, “Blinken said.
He also accused Russia of using “disinformation to erode confidence in elections and in safe and effective vaccines.”
The Biden administration has sought to revitalize ties between the United States and NATO that were strained under former President Donald Trump, and lashed out at Russian President Vladimir Putin, accepting that he is “a murderer” and warning that he would “pay a price” for supposedly interfere. in the 2020 U.S. elections.
Putin provided an unusual answer.
“Regarding the statements of my American colleague, how would you respond to him?” Putin asked rhetorically. “I would tell him, ‘Stay healthy!’ I wish you good health. “
He then cautioned, “Whatever you call me, that’s what you call yourself,” and recounted a selective history of the United States, which included mass killings of Native Americans, enslavement of African Americans, and the use of nuclear weapons in combat. Putin himself is accused of orchestrating the murder of dissidents, as well as the attempted poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Biden’s comments have sparked outrage in Moscow, where Putin has challenged Biden to a live discussion, an offer that has yet to be accepted.
The White House national security adviser told MSNBC on Monday that he expected “to have difficult days with Russia, because there are issues on which we deeply disagree and actions to which we must respond vigorously.”
His Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, said on Wednesday that such comments indicated that Washington was seeking and planning such an outcome.
“And if they are planning that, they can implement it, but then they will be responsible for the steps they take,” Patrushev said, according to Russia’s state news agency Tass.
However, it left the door open for cooperation.
“We are committed to constructive cooperation that takes into account the interests of each of the parties and is equal,” he said. “Let me emphasize that we have not taken any hostile action against the United States, we are not taking any now, nor do we plan to take any in the future.”