Warsaw/Moscow, 15 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- As NATO ended its show-of-force air exercises in the Balkans today, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Russian President Boris Yeltsin may play a key role in ending the violence in Kosova.
Cohen, speaking during a visit to Warsaw, said he hopes Yeltsin may be able to convince visiting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he is becoming increasingly isolated in the world.
Today's exercise in Albanian and Macedonian airspace, involving 85 NATO military planes, was designed to pressure Milosevic into ending the police and military crackdown against ethnic Albanians in the southern Serbian province of Kosova. Milosevic maintains he is fighting separatism, but Western leaders have described the Serbs' actions as ethnic cleansing.
Cohen said if Milosevic does not get the message from today's show of military might or from Yeltsin's persuasion, NATO will start considering, in his words, "a range of military options."
However, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said in Moscow that Russia would not support allied military action to end the Kosova conflict without authorization from the UN Security Council. Several Western leaders have argued that NATO does not need UN authorization.
Meanwhile, Macedonia welcomed the exercise over its territory, saying it will contribute to regional stability and could stop the Kosova conflict from spreading to Macedonia, which shares a border with Kosova.