Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 121

One issue which could complicate approval of the Kosovo mission is financing. Russian officials had earlier expressed hopes that the UN would pick up the costs for the Kosovo peacekeeping mission, but recently (on June 21) conceded that Moscow would have to foot the bill itself. Military and diplomatic sources also intimated, however, that the NATO nation’s under which Russian troops will serve in Kosovo might contribute at least some funding to the Russian effort (Russian agencies, June 21). While unconfirmed, the admission might shed some light on why Russia agreed to place its troops within the national sectors established by NATO in Kosovo rather than holding to its position that Russian troops must have a sector of their own.

The costs for Russia in Kosovo will apparently be considerable. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko estimated yesterday that Russia’s cash-strapped government would need to come up with some US$50 million this year to pay for the dispatch and maintenance of the country’s planned 3,600-man contingent in Kosovo. Khristenko did not say where that money would come from, or whether it would be taken from Russia’s general military budget. Russian Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev was no more specific. “We will try to find money to finance the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo in this year’s budget,” Seleznev said, adding that the Finance Ministry is now in search of funding (Itar-Tass, June 22).

At least two Russian regional leaders expressed reservations about financing the mission, however. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov said that he opposes deploying a Russian contingent to Kosovo because the funding for it would come “at the expense of the [general] population.” He suggested that Russia cannot afford to support a military mission in Kosovo (Itar-Tass, June 22). St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was nearly as unenthusiastic in comments made a day earlier, when he called for the federal government to find money for the Kosovo mission and rejected proposals that the regions chip in to fund the force (Ekho Moskvy, June 21).

Russian military leaders, meanwhile, suggested that they were prepared to begin the deployment of troops to Kosovo as soon as the Federation Council approves the measure. “The operation to send Russian peacekeepers to Kosovo has been completely planned, and what we await is only a political decision,” a senior Russian General Staff officer said yesterday. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev likewise said yesterday that Russian soldiers were prepared to lift off for the Balkans “five hours after a corresponding political decision is taken” by the Russian political leadership (Russian agencies, June 22). The day before yesterday, the commander of Russia’s Airborne Forces said that the first Russian contingent to be sent to Kosovo would number about 300 men. They would be sent initially with only light arms, he added; armored personnel carriers and other vehicles would follow later (Russian agencies, June 22).