Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 113

While yesterday’s successes were considerable, the full implementation of the Kosovo peace settlement is likely to be fraught with difficulties. One of those was on display yesterday in Moscow, as Russian and U.S. military officials failed after a day of negotiations to reach a compromise plan which would permit a Russian peacekeeping contingent to take part in the Kosovo peace operation. Russia has insisted that its troops in Kosovo will not be subordinated to NATO, and has also suggested that it wants its contingent to control a particular area in Kosovo. NATO has rebuffed both proposals, the first on the grounds that it would violate the principle of unified command and the second because it could contribute to a de facto partition of Kosovo.

Statements yesterday by Russian delegation head Colonel General Leonid Ivashov suggested that Moscow was sticking to its demands. Ivashov did say, however, that the Russian side was not insisting on control over a “sector” of Kosovo, as earlier reports had suggested, but simply wanted to exercise authority over a definitive area. NATO has divided Kosovo into four territorial sectors to be administered by Britain, France, Germany and Italy, respectively. It has proposed that Russian troops, which could number anywhere from 2,000-10,000, be split up and deployed as needed to various of those sectors. Russian military officials have also said that a brigade of paratroopers–some 2,500 troops–has been readied for service in Kosovo and could be dispatched quickly.

The military talks are scheduled to resume today. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott participated in yesterday’s military talks, and will apparently do so today as well. According to Russian sources, Finnish military officials also sat in on the talks yesterday. Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari played a key role in the diplomatic efforts which led to the settlement of the crisis, and Finnish military officials participated in those efforts as well (AP, Reuters, Russian agencies, June 10).

Talbott also met yesterday in Moscow with Russia’s special envoy for the Balkans, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and with current Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. In keeping with the Clinton administration’s policy of emphasizing–some would say exaggerating–the importance of Russia’s role in settling the Balkans crisis, Talbott was quoted yesterday as telling Russian reporters that Moscow “bears a big, perhaps even a decisive responsibility” for ending the conflict.

Stepashin, meanwhile, reportedly told Talbott that Moscow had made “major concessions” to the West during the negotiations which led to the settlement. But, in what appeared to be a sign of his approval for Chernomyrdin’s performance as Moscow’s negotiator, Stepashin also characterized the concessions as “justified.” It was “necessary to put an end to the war and stop the suffering of the Yugoslav peoples and the bloodshed,” he was quoted as saying (Reuters, Itar-Tass, June 10).

Chernomyrdin has been under fire in Moscow for what the Kremlin’s critics allege was his failure to protect Yugoslav and Russian national interests during the negotiations. Russian lawmakers made their dissatisfaction with Chernomyrdin–and with NATO’s policies in the Balkans–clear once against yesterday when they approved a recommendation on an “urgent measure to settle the Yugoslav conflict.” The measure urges Yeltsin to fire Chernomyrdin for having “pursued a line at variance with Russia’s national interests.” It also warned the Kremlin against subordinating Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo to NATO. In connection with that, it said that “another ultimatum thrust upon Yugoslavia would mean the defeat of Russia’s strategic ally… It [also] would dramatically worsen Russia’s geo-strategic position and create a serious threat to the national security of our country” (Russian agencies, June 10). The Duma measure is nonbinding, but does reflect widespread dissatisfaction among Russia ‘s political elite on the course of the Kosovo negotiations.