News

USIS Washington File

26 May 2000

Text: Helms Statement on Relations Between Russia and Serbia

(Says he will introduce legislation to cut U.S. aid to Russia) (1,250)

As a consequence of Russia's support for the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
Jesse Helms, says he will introduce legislation to cut U.S. aid to the
Russian Federation.

Helms issued a statement May 25 denouncing Russia for hosting Yugoslav
Defense Minister Dragolub Ojdanic -- an indicted war criminal -- and
for agreeing to provide assistance to Serbia while at the same time
seeking relief from its own debts to international financial
institutions.

"I sincerely believe that a partnership with Russia is possible and
indeed, would serve the interests of both countries," Helms said. "A
strategy of engagement, however, cannot and must not ignore reality.
Partnership cannot occur when Russia blatantly supports a regime that
continues to threaten stability in the Balkans, whose calling cards
are ethnic cleansing and political repression, and that continues to
threaten U.S. soldiers in the field."

Following is the text of his statement:

(begin text)

United States Senate
Washington, D.C.
May 25, 2000

STATEMENT OF SENATOR JESSE HELMS (REPUBLICAN OF NORTH CAROLINA) 
CHAIRMAN, U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS 

RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA AND SERBIA

MAY 25, 2000

MR. HELMS: Mr. President [President of the Senate], one of the myths
dear to President Clinton's heart these days is that the government of
Russia has been "a supportive and reliable partner in the effort to
bring peace and stability to [the] Balkans." That myth was shattered
once again this month when a war criminal indicted by the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, was
hosted in Moscow -- not by Russia's criminal underworld -- but by the
Kremlin itself.

General Dragolub Ojdanic, Minister of Defense of the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia, visited Moscow for nearly a week earlier this month,
from May 7 - 12, 2000. He was there as a guest of the government of
the Russian Federation and enjoyed the privilege of attending
President Vladimir Putin's inauguration ceremonies.

As Slobodan Milosevic's military Chief of Staff during the Kosovo war,
General Ojdanic was directly responsible for the Serbian military's
ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo. For this, the General was
indicted by the ICTY for crimes against humanity and violations of the
laws and customs of war for alleged atrocities against Albanians in
Kosovo.

Mr. President, the ICTY has issued international warrants for General
Ojdanic's arrest and extradition to The Hague. The Russian Federation,
a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council which
established the ICTY, has an obligation to arrest General Ojdanic and
extradite him to The Hague if and when they have the opportunity.

But what did President Putin and his regime do when Ojdanic was in
Moscow? Instead of arresting and sending him to The Hague, they
provided a week of fine food and camaraderie and a privileged seat at
the Putin inauguration!

What truly disturbs me, Mr. President, is that General Ojdanic's visit
was not just for fun. He was there to work -- to reestablish the links
between the Milosevic regime and the Kremlin. While in Moscow, he held
official talks with Defense Minister Sergeyev, Army Chief of Staff
Anatoly Kvashnin, and Foreign Minister Ivanov.

On May 16, four days after General Ojdanic's visit to Moscow, Russia
announced that it has provided the Serbian regime of Slobodan
Milosevic with $102 million of a $150 million loan. The Russian
government also announced that it will facilitate the sale to Serbia
of $32 million worth of oil, despite the fact that the international
community has imposed economic sanctions against the Milosevic regime.

I confess that I am impressed by the audacity of Russian President
Putin. Here he is, providing the Milosevic regime with over $150
million in economic support while seeking debt relief from the
international community and loans from the International Monetary
Fund. He is doing this while his country seeks and receives food aid
from the United States.

What should we conclude from all this?

First, President Putin seems comfortable ignoring the requirement to
arrest and transfer indicted war criminals to The Hague. I suppose we
can just add this to the long list of international obligations Mr.
Putin sees fit to disregard.

Second, Russia does not share NATO's goals and objectives in bringing
peace and stability to the Balkans. If it did, its leaders would not
be so brazenly and warmly supporting senior officials of the Milosevic
regime.

Third, the Kremlin must regard Western, and particularly, U.S.
economic assistance and aid to be unconditional. He has evidently
concluded that he can conduct his foreign policy with impunity and
still count on the West's economic largesse. The fact that the
hospitality and support provided to these Serbian war criminals occurs
just one month before President Clinton's visit to Moscow shows how
little respect Putin has for the policies of the United States.

Mr. President, what concerns me most about the relationship between
the Kremlin and the Milosevic regime is the threat it poses to our men
and women in uniform serving in the Balkans -- and those of our
allies. The political support the Kremlin provides Slobodan Milosevic
directly jeopardizes the safety and security of American and allied
forces deployed in the Balkans. This outreach by Putin to the
Milosevic regime only encourages that brutal dictator to continue his
policies of destruction in the Balkans.

While we are trying to force the Milosevic regime to step down and to
turn power over to Serbia's democratic opposition, Russia is signaling
to Milosevic that he can survive and even outlast the Alliance -- and
that Russia will help him prevail.

It is for these reasons, that I plan to introduce an amendment to the
foreign operations appropriations bill that will restrict the material
and economic assistance the United States provides to the Russian
Federation. There is no reason why the United States should be
providing Russia loan forgiveness and economic assistance when the
Kremlin continues to support a regime in Serbia whose forces directly
threaten our troops and those of our allies trying to bring peace to
the Balkans.

This amendment does four things:

First, it reduces assistance obligated to the Russian Federation by an
amount equal in value to the loans, financial assistance, and energy
sales the Government of the Russian Federation has provided and
intends to provide to the Milosevic regime.

Second, it ensures U.S. opposition to the extension of financial
assistance to Russia from the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank and other international financial institutions.

Third, it suspends existing programs to Russia provided by the
Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Fourth, it ensures the United States will oppose proposals to provide
Russia further forgiveness, restructuring, and rescheduling of its
international debt.

Mr. President, I sincerely believe that a partnership with Russia is
possible and indeed, would serve the interests of both countries. A
strategy of engagement, however, cannot and must not ignore reality.
Partnership cannot occur when Russia blatantly supports a regime that
continues to threaten stability in the Balkans, whose calling cards
are ethnic cleansing and political repression, and that continues to
threaten U.S. soldiers in the field.

I will be pleased to treat Russia as a responsible partner when it
behaves as one.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)