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Idea of the Day: Understanding Putin’s National Security Policy

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On June 10, 1999, President Bill Clinton addressed the nation from the Oval Office as he declared victory in the Kosovo war: “Tonight for the first time in seventy-nine days, the skies over Yugoslavia are silent. The Serb army and police are withdrawing from Kosovo. The one million men, women, and children driven from their land are preparing to return home. The demands of an outraged and united international community have been met.” For President Clinton, success after the many missteps and miscalculations in the early stages of the war vindicated his leadership and willingness to embrace a combination of force and diplomacy.

The terms accepted by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had been set after weeks of grueling shuttle diplomacy between a troika of negotiators: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and Russian Special Envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin. Although these diplomats still had to finalize an agreement on how—and if—Russian forces would participate in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, and the Russian team had often seemed split during the contentious final days of negotiating, the mood back in the Clinton White House was buoyant. Everyone felt like they had dodged a bullet.

But back in Russia, U.S. negotiators woke up to a much darker turn of events. At 1:00 in the morning on June 11, the quiet of General George Casey’s hotel room at the Moscow Marriot was shattered by the ringing of the phone.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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