Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 168

Agreement between Russia and the United States on other issues did not appear to come so easily yesterday, however, though both sides did express satisfaction that they had at least resumed high-level military contacts. But Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev went out of his way to underscore what he said was Moscow’s continued belief that NATO had acted improperly in the Balkans during the recent Kosovo crisis. He also criticized the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, telling reporters that the operation there had “yet to yield real results.”

Sergeev said, finally, that Moscow wants additional discussion over disarmament plans for the Kosovo Liberation Army and border protection for Yugoslavia. On the first count, Moscow has joined Belgrade in sharply criticizing a UN- and NATO-brokered plan which calls for the KLA to be transformed into a semi-civil “Kosovo Corps” emergency force. On the second count, Sergeev’s reference to border protection presumably refers to a decision by the chief of the UN mission in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, to set up a customs service on Kosovo’s border with Macedonia. Moscow has criticized that proposal as well, and is expected to raise the issue with Kouchner during a two-day visit to the Russian capital that is scheduled to begin today (Reuters, AP, Russian agencies, September 13).

There was also little indication yesterday that U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Sergeev had made any significant progress in overcoming differences between Washington and Moscow over the ABM Treaty and U.S. plans to pursue development of a limited national missile defense system. Sergeev apparently had little to say on the subject when the two men met with reporters after their talks. Cohen, on the other hand, suggested that Washington would eventually persuade Russia to modify the ABM accord–but said that it would not be easy. “I would expect that this would take a few more discussions, but I believe that if we approach this in a constructive fashion, we can in fact provide for some modifications,” he told a Russian radio station (AP, September 13).

Cohen and Sergeev did announce yesterday that the two countries work together to battle terrorism, but Cohen said that no specific joint measures had been discussed. He suggested that the two countries would share information about terrorism, and that experts from the two countries would meet to discuss the issue. Cohen was quoted as calling yesterday’s bomb blast at a Moscow apartment building a “cowardly and callous act of terrorism” (Reuters, September 13).

While in Moscow yesterday Cohen also met with Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and other members of the Russian State Duma. He urged the Russian lawmakers to ratify the START II treaty so that Russia and the United States can move on to negotiate a follow-up START III accord. Cohen is scheduled today to visit the Russian city of Severodvinsk on the Kola Peninsula. There he will observe a U.S. aid program under which nuclear powered submarines of Russia’s Northern Fleet are being scrapped.