NATO moved a step closer to winning a political settlement of the Kosovo conflict on its own terms yesterday, as Western leaders won Russia’s grudging agreement to a draft UN Security Resolution aimed at bringing the seventy-eight-day conflict to a close. Yesterday’s agreement by Russia and the Group of Seven countries appeared also to restore relative solidarity between Russia and the West over Kosovo. That solidarity had been forged late last week following marathon talks in Bonn held by Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, EU envoy (and Finnish President) Martti Ahtisaari and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Cooperation between Russia and the West threatened to crumble over the weekend, however, as the terms of the Russian-EU-U.S. peace plan–accepted last week by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic–were subsequently challenged by Belgrade and criticized in Moscow.
Yesterday’s agreement between Russia and the G-7 countries came after talks in Cologne the day before ended inconclusively due to Russia’s opposition to several key points. Those points–which pertained especially to the international security presence to be deployed in Kosovo–were finessed yesterday in order to bring Moscow back on board. The day’s delay and the rewording of the points in question appeared designed to allow Russia to save face. In the end, NATO appears to have gotten much of what it wanted.
In particular, yesterday’s draft document reaffirmed that the international security force in Kosovo will carry a UN mandate but will remain under NATO’s military command. That condition was set out, not in the main body of the document, but in an annex which stipulated that the security force would operate under a unified command. The draft also placed the Kosovo peacekeeping operation under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which permits international interventions to override national sovereignty. Moscow had previously insisted that the operation be placed under Chapter 6, which would have limited its scope. NATO has insisted that the force must be a robust one capable of enforcing the peace agreement. The draft resolution, finally, explicitly calls for cooperation by all parties on investigating war crimes in Kosovo. Moscow had earlier opposed mention in the text of Milosevic’s war crimes indictment (International Herald Tribune, June 9; International agencies, June 8).
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who negotiated on behalf of Moscow, acknowledged yesterday that the Russian government had made concessions. But he described Moscow’s main goal as bringing “an end to the war,” and said that “if we can achieve that, as quickly as possible, we can be satisfied with this resolution” (AP, June 8). His words echoed the explanation given over the weekend by Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin who was answering accusations that he had sold out Yugoslav and Russian interests in reaching the agreement with NATO last week which Milosevic ultimately accepted.
PITFALLS REMAIN IN BALKANS PEACE PROCESS.