Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 125

The Kremlin’s seeming defensiveness about the effectiveness of its Balkans policy appears to stem from both its rumored surprise over the June 12 deployment of troops to Kosovo and, more broadly, over criticism that Moscow had sold out Russian and Yugoslav interests in the negotiations which led to the peace settlement. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov–who more than any other Russian official was humiliated by the June 12 military action–exhibited some defensiveness during a June 27 TV interview which focused on the government’s policies toward Yugoslavia. Ivanov insisted that Moscow had pursued a “firm” line in dealing with events in the Balkans. That approach, he claimed, had, on the one hand, allowed the Kremlin to resist the pressures of hardliners who wanted to involve Russia militarily in the Yugoslav conflict. It had also, he said, allowed Moscow to avoid making key concessions to NATO.

In another seeming effort to rebut the criticism of Russian hardliners, Ivanov argued that the Kremlin’s longer policy of engagement with NATO–one pursued by Moscow until the beginning of the alliance’s air campaign–had been a pragmatic one based on the hard realities of European security. “NATO is a reality we inherited after the Cold War,” he said, “and if this is the reality, then we have to deal” with it. He argued that Russia’s willingness to enter into a partnership agreement with the Western alliance–through the NATO-Russia Founding Act–had been based on this need to deal with NATO while simultaneously pursuing Russia’s security interests in Europe. But the pact with NATO had been violated by the alliance’s “act of aggression against a sovereign state in Europe,” Ivanov said. Russia had therefore broken off–or “frozen”–relations with the alliance (TV6, June 27).

With the end of the Kosovo campaign, however, Russian officials are now struggling over how to manage a renewal of relations with NATO. Indeed, Ivanov’s remarks on “European realities” may have been uttered in that context. To some extent, the process of reconciliation began officially this week when Moscow dispatched a Russian military delegation to NATO headquarters in Brussels. Headed by Vice Admiral Valentin Kuznetsov, the Russian officials are to discuss with their NATO counterparts details of the joint peacekeeping effort in Kosovo. They will apparently also help set up a special officers group which will be based near Brussels and will work with NATO to manage the Kosovo mission.

But Russian officials, including the notoriously hardline General Leonid Ivashov, are emphasizing that Moscow is “unfreezing” its ties to NATO with respect only to the Kosovo operation. The visit by the Russian delegation to Brussels does not imply, Ivashov said yesterday, that Russia intends to restore its broader relations with the alliance. Ivanov said much the same thing yesterday, adding only that the restoration of broader ties would be the subject of future talks with NATO (Russian agencies, June 28).