Yeltsin Threats Reflect Russian Anger Over Kosovo

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Boris Yeltsin's tough talk may be for domestic consumption, but it reflects Russia's deep alienation from NATO. He warned Friday that Moscow would consider sending troops to the Balkans to support the Serbs should the Western alliance try to "seize" Kosovo in a ground invasion. Duma speaker Gennady Zeleznyov even claimed that Yeltsin had told him Russia's nuclear missiles are once again targeted at NATO countries, although Russian missile command denied the report. "Yeltsin is simply trying to save his political skin in the face of an impeachment vote in the Duma next week," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "He also very clearly said Russia would not engage militarily in Kosovo and would not send military aid or volunteers to Yugoslavia."

While Russia remains more interested in being the peacemaker than a combatant in the Kosovo conflict, the war has had a profound impact on Russians' attitude to the West. "Russians all across the political spectrum are now fundamentally alienated from NATO," says Meier. "Previously the alliance was regarded as an uncomfortable fact of life; now most Russians view it as a dangerous aggressor." Which means that once Kosovo's hot war ends, there may be a familiar chill in the air between Washington and Moscow.