Review of International Studies

Sarajevo, February 1994: the first Russia-NATO crisis of the post-Cold War era

Jim  Headley 


This article analyses the Russian reaction to the Sarajevo crisis of February 1994 when NATO threatened air strikes in response to the market-place mortar explosion. I argue that Russia's shift to a realist great-power policy led to a crisis with the West as Russia sought to demonstrate its great power credentials, protect what it saw as specific Russian interests in the Balkans, and limit the role of NATO in conflict resolution, while Western leaders aimed to demonstrate NATO credibility and its new post-Cold War role as peace-keeper/peace-maker. This was the first major East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War, and Russian responses and actions foreshadowed its reactions to the Kosovo crisis.