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Alexei Arbatov, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Defence of the State Duma of the Russian Federation
“A War for Three”
The decision of the Yugoslavian parliament to join the union of Russia and Belarus presented another puzzle to the international community. What kind of move was this? – A political gamble for internal use? A real prospect to create a “Slavic Alliance”? Or the first step toward the beginning of a Third World War? Here are the comments of Alexei Arbatov, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Defence of the State Duma.

“We must not play games committing Russia into military obligations that we are in no condition to fulfil. But such obligations of mutual assistance may directly result from the proposed broadening of the present union between Russia and Belarus to include Yugoslavia. As a result of such an alliance, in the current situation, we must begin a war with NATO.

Now, I admit that NATO may behave in such a way that it will put Russia in a position that we shall need to look for partners. And perhaps even a military union with Yugoslavia will be in our interests. For example, should NATO elect to move further East, Russia shall move West. However, such a Russian move may not have a happy ending for the Serbians. Under such circumstances, Serbia’s neighbours, including Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia and Albania would ask to join NATO. Should they be admitted, Belgrade will find itself surrounded in a hostile environment.

The present situation reminds me of the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, I am not sure the results will end as happily as in the times of Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy. In the current situation, Russia would not be able to refrain from the conflict. Russia is now a democratic country with a parliament and mass media. Russian public attitudes will play a role in decision making, especially in the case of the entrance of Russian ground troops and the separation of Kosovo. Then instead of hundreds, tens of thousands of well-trained Russian volunteers will be needed in Yugoslavia. There will be coffins, and Moscow will have to take decisions on the federal level to support its troops and allies by sea. Under such circumstances, a military clash with NATO in the Adriatic Sea is not only likely, it will be inevitable.”

Alexei Arbatov
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