Primakov, however, aims to use the crisis to salvage some Russian prestige. "Despite threats to defy the arms embargo, so far the Russian response has been confined to bluster and grandstanding," says Meier. Moscow has severed ties with NATO and on Friday expelled the alliance's representatives from Russia. "But despite coming out with the strongest anti-American rhetoric since the Cold War, Moscow is very careful to delineate its criticism of NATO's action in terms of international law," says Meier. "Ultimately, Primakov wants to persuade Milosevic to compromise, mediate a cease-fire and collect a reward for his efforts from the IMF." Already, unconfirmed reports suggest Milosevic has given Primakov power of attorney to negotiate on his behalf with the NATO countries. And given his track record, it would be hard to bet against the prospect that when NATO and Yugoslavia eventually sign an accord to end their fighting, Primakov will be there wearing a matrimonial smile.
Bill Clinton is wasting his breath trying to paint himself as a friend of the Serbs, but Yevgeny Primakov could yet emerge as the peacemaker. President Clinton appealed via satellite broadcast early Friday for the understanding of the Serbian people, blaming the bombing on President Milosevic. "Clinton's words haven't been well received," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "These bombings have produced a great wellspring of anti-American feeling across political lines throughout the Slavic world."