Russian anger at NATO attacks goes deeper than 'Slavic brotherhood'
April 4, 1999
MOSCOW (CNN) -- A top aide to Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Sunday that Russia will not be drawn into the Yugoslav conflict militarily, either by supplying arms to the Belgrade regime or sending volunteers to fight for it.
But even as Sergei Prikhodko was making those remarks to Moscow radio station Echo Moskvi, ordinary Russians continue to express their anger about U.S.-led NATO strikes on Yugoslavia. Young skinheads demonstrate outside the U.S. embassy, and the Orthodox faithful pray for the conflict to end.
Why are there such deep feelings in Russia against NATO airstrikes? One social scientist says theories that it is the result of "Slavic brotherhood" are overblown.
"As for solidarity with Serbs, traditionally it was never high on the agenda in public opinion," says Yuri Levada of the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion. "The fact is, relations with the Serbs have rarely been very close."
Russia's anger, some observers believe, is not really about Kosovo -- it's about Russia itself.
Take, for example, a man who sells videos and CDs at the Dorogomilovsky Market. He believes the United States started the conflict, and he has his own theory about why.
"They stopped respecting Russia. That's why they started a war," said the vendor, who declined to give his name. "Before, they wouldn't have been able to do this."
"Before" refers to the era when Russia was still the Soviet Union, a superpower. The Kosovo crisis is forcing Russians to take a painful look in the mirror at their much diminished circumstances.
"Russia is not in a capacity today to dictate like it used to when it was the Soviet Union," says Alexey Pushkov, an international policy observer.
Russia's crippling economic crisis already has weakened many people's faith in the West. The political price of the Kosovo crisis could be even higher.
"The communists and the nationalists who are criticizing Yeltsin for getting too close to the West are saying, 'You see now -- we were right. Look what they are doing in Yugoslavia. We'll be next,'" Pushkov says.
Pentagon: Apache helicopters, more troops headed to Balkans
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