Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 119

What Moscow did not get was its own sector in Kosovo, and especially not one in the northern part of the province. NATO had argued that an independent Russian presence of that sort could lead to the partition of Kosovo. That was especially true, NATO feared, if Moscow got its wish to place its troops in the north, near Serbia. Belgrade authorities are most desirous of controlling the northern part of Kosovo, and NATO leaders feared that a strong Russian presence there could further Belgrade’s goal. Russia may also not have gotten approval for the number of troops it wanted. Earlier Russian reports had suggested that the Defense Ministry was looking to send between 5,000 and 10,000 soldiers to Kosovo.

The two chief negotiators of the peacekeeping agreement, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, acknowledged on June 18 that the accord commits the two sides to a long-term partnership aimed at stabilizing the volatile Balkans region (International agencies, June 18; Washington Post, June 19). This could be a positive development if the Russian-NATO partnership–and the peacekeeping and aid effort in Kosovo more generally–goes smoothly. Animosity toward NATO runs high within the Russian military, however, and there is no guarantee that the Russian troops will fold themselves neatly into NATO’s already difficult peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.

Kosovo Albanian rebels, moreover, have expressed their sharp opposition to a Russian presence in the province. Efforts by NATO troops to disarm the rebels is proving difficult enough. A Russian move to join those efforts–something Russian officials said over the weekend they intended to do–could easily raise tensions and be the source of fresh hostilities. NATO troops may therefore feel compelled to pick up the pace of their disarmament efforts; it was unclear over the weekend when the Russian troops would actually arrive in Kosovo.