General Leonid Ivashov, the first vice-president of the Russian Academy for Geopolitics, testifies at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic about the Western conspiracy to “destroy FR Yugoslavia, discredit its leadership and detach Kosovo from Serbia.” Milosevic rejected proposals put forward by Russian generals to use “more extreme measures” against the KLA and to move the war against NATO over to the Macedonian territory

After Senator Nikolai Ryzhkov defended his theory about “genetic enmity” of the West towards Russia and other Slavonic countries yesterday, retired general Leonid Ivashov explained today how the “genetics” worked when applied to FR Yugoslavia and Serbia.

Former head of the office for international military cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry, responding to questions posed by the accused, presented a conspiracy theory worthy of his current post of the first vice-president of the Russian Academy for Geopolitical Issues. As early as in 1997, Ivashov claims, there was a “coordinated plan to destroy FR Yugoslavia, discredit its leadership and detach Kosovo from Serbia.”

According to Ivashov, the implementation of the plan began in 1998, with “special psychological and propaganda warfare” against Yugoslavia and its leadership. In parallel, preparations were underway at the airports of ten NATO member-states, military infrastructure was brought to Macedonia, Hungary and Albania and intelligence activity intensified. At that point, however, there was no consensus yet in NATO on a military operation against the FRY. The US and UK exerted pressure, but the other countries were reluctant or passive.

According to Leonid Ivashov’s theory, the plan anticipated that the Belgrade leadership should be issued an ultimatum to allow the deployment of NATO forces on the FRY territory, disguised as a peace force which would prevent the conflicts in Kosovo. If Milosevic refused, there would be air strikes, followed by an intervention on the ground. There are three reasons why the planned ground intervention was not carried out: some Member-States refused to give their consent, the KLA suffered heavy losses in the fighting with the Serbian security forces (and could thus not provide any substantial support to NATO forces), while the VJ managed to maintain its combat readiness despite the air strikes.

General Ivashov’s theory, as he explained, is based on the information he obtained from military, intelligence, diplomatic and other sources available at the time to the military and political leadership in the Russian Federation. The general, however, failed to present any evidence to corroborate his claims. Milosevic does not see why any additional evidence should be necessary when the “witness comes from the top military ranks in Russia, from a place where all the information was gathered.”

The judges were particularly interested in General Ivashov’s claims about the bias exhibited by the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) and its head, American William Walker, who allegedly ignored reports by Russian KVM personnel and did not include them in the reports he sent to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna. Noting that “the objectivity of the KVM is an important factor in this case, because a good part of the prosecution case is based on those reports,” Judge Robinson stated that the Trial Chamber would give greater weight to the witness’s statement if his claims were to be corroborated with any written reports filed by Russian KVM personnel allegedly suppressed by Walker. General Ivashov however said that he did not have any such documents with him and that the Russian observers mostly filed their reports orally, over the phone.

After confirming all the main arguments of the accused about the NATO aggression, KLA terrorism and the humanitarian disaster as a result – rather than cause – of the air strikes, General Ivashov added that the Russian military leadership had advised Milosevic to take “more extreme measures” in dealing with the Albanian separatism and terrorism, and that Miloevic was advised in the spring of 1999 that the VJ forces should attack NATO forces outside of the FRY territory, for instance in Macedonia. But Milosevic refused to take any action that could have expanded the conflict, Ivashov stated with regret.

General Ivashov’s geopolitical conspiracy theory will be subjected to the cross-examination by prosecutor Geoffrey Nice tomorrow.