Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 87

Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin wound up a two-day visit to the United States yesterday, but it was unclear at its conclusion whether his mission–devoted to brokering a diplomatic solution of the Kosovo conflict–had met with any real success. Chernomyrdin, who last month was named Russia’s special envoy for the Balkans crisis, held talks yesterday in Washington with U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Those talks, reportedly requested by the Russian side early yesterday morning, were an extension of consultations among the same trio of participants which had gone well into the previous evening (May 3). Chernomyrdin had met earlier on May 3 with U.S. President Bill Clinton. As part of his schedule yesterday, Chernomyrdin flew to New York for separate talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and with Norwegian Foreign Minister–and chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–Knut Vollebaek.

At several junctures yesterday, Chernomyrdin suggested to reporters that differences had narrowed between Moscow and Washington over how best to resolve the conflict. He provided no real details, however, as to how and on what basis this had occurred. Chernomyrdin did intimate that the key area of disagreement between Moscow and Washington remains the nature of the peacekeeping force to be deployed (AP, May 4). Some U.S. officials, meanwhile, also suggested yesterday that Chernomyrdin’s mission had borne fruit. State Department spokesman James Rubin, for example, told reporters that NATO and Russia are “moving closer to a common set of objectives.” He added that “hopefully, at some point, a common plan for implementing those objectives” will emerge.

Other senior officials chose to emphasize, however, that the Clinton administration and Chernomyrdin remained divided over how any prospective Kosovo peace settlement should be structured, and how it should be implemented. They said further that there were few signs that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is any closer to accepting NATO demands. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, meanwhile, told reporters that he could not “point to any single issue or breakthrough” which had occurred during Chernomyrdin’s talks in Washington. But he restated the administration’s position that it is worthwhile keeping Moscow actively engaged in the Kosovo peace efforts (Reuters, May 5; Washington Post, May 5).