Attack Coincides With Diplomatic Rift
The grenade attack Wednesday on the U.S. Embassy in Moscow climaxed weeks of growing tension between the United States and Russia that was already testing their sometimes-awkward post-Cold War partnership.
The State Department labeled the attack, launched by an unknown assailant from an apartment house, an “outrageous act of terrorism.” It said the investigation was “in capable hands in the Russian security services.”
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott went ahead with a trip to Moscow to try to repair a diplomatic rift over the sustained NATO bombardment of Bosnian Serb military installations.
The Clinton administration is looking to the Russians to prod the Bosnian Serbs to the peace table. Beyond the war in Bosnia, the United States wants Russia to keep scaling back its nuclear arsenal and forge closer ties with the West.
Clinton has held four summit meetings with President Boris Yeltsin to encourage Russia to break with its hostile past, and there may be a fifth this fall.
But Russia’s angry protest of the NATO bombing, which included an accusation that U.S. warplanes were engaged in genocide against children, carries echoes of Cold War rhetoric and also reflects frustration that a one-time superpower is losing influence over world events.
“Our policies have pretty much marginalized them, and they have also marginalized themselves,” said Helmut Sonnenfeldt, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. government specialist on Soviet affairs. “The Russians obviously are offended and they are not getting their points adopted” in the Balkans, the Middle East and elsewhere, Sonnenfeldt said in an interview.
Talbott’s task is to keep Russia at least nominally aboard the five-nation diplomatic campaign to set up a Balkans peace conference without giving ground on the NATO bombing. It has weakened the Serbs militarily, and their refusal to withdraw heavy weapons from the outskirts of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, gives the United States and its allies justification for the relentless pummeling.
The disagreement over NATO’s rough treatment of the Serbs, with whom Russia has historic religious and cultural ties, is the Clinton administration’s immediate concern. But there are other serious disagreements as well that contribute to a frustration that could prompt Congress to cut assistance to Russia, despite Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s insistence it would hurt nuclear disarmament and reform programs.
Russian officials recently indicated a determination to provide Iran with up to four nuclear reactors despite U.S. warnings the technology could hasten development of a nuclear arsenal. Russia, meanwhile, is frustrated over the projected expansion of NATO to its border.
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