Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 163

Moscow, meanwhile, continued over the weekend to voice sharp criticisms of NATO’s peacekeeping performance in the Balkans. During a visit to Georgia, for example, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called NATO actions in Yugoslavia a “big mistake” and argued that Western efforts there had “not only failed to improve the situation in the Balkans, but had created new problems” (Russian agencies, September 3).

Ivanov’s criticisms were taken up by Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev during an official visit to Belgrade which began on September 5. Avdeev’s barbs were directed in particular at an agreement reached with the KLA by NATO and the UN late last week. The accord calls for the conversion of a part of the guerrilla army into a brigade of civil emergency and rescue workers. KLA members in the civil emergency brigade would wear uniforms and carry sidearms, but their duties would be limited to relief and rescue measures, and to providing medical care. The proposal is part of NATO’s effort to disarm and demilitarize the KLA. Guerrilla leaders, who have already requested a ten-day extension of a September 19 disarmament deadline, have insisted that the KLA will ultimately become the national army of an independent Kosovo state.

Both Belgrade and Moscow oppose these aspirations, which they accuse NATO of having encouraged. Such concerns were at the heart of Avdeev’s remarks over the weekend. Following his arrival in Belgrade on September 5, the Russian diplomat joined Belgrade authorities in criticizing Bernard Kouchner, chief of the United Nations mission in Kosovo. Avdeev slammed Kouchner’s recent decision to introduce the German mark as legal tender in Kosovo and to set up a customs service on Kosovo’s border with Macedonia. Avdeev warned the UN mission against trying to establish any sort of protectorate in Kosovo. Avdeev appeared also to make it clear that Moscow would oppose the creation of any KLA-based based civil brigade in Kosovo. He said that Moscow understands the “demilitarization of the KLA in the full sense of the word”–as applying “not only to the surrender of weapons but also to demobilization of the KLA.” He suggested that Russian leaders would raise these issues with Kouchner during the UN diplomat’s scheduled visit to Moscow on September 14 (RIA, September 6; UPI, September 5).

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, meanwhile, served as official host late last week to a visit by Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic. Reports out of Belgrade yesterday, which followed the Serbian premier’s return to Yugoslavia, suggested that Marjanovic had managed to secure a deal by which Serbia would receive deliveries of Russian gas. The Tanjug news agency reported that the deal calls for a rearrangement of Yugoslavia’s debts to Moscow and creates an arrangement by which the gas would be supplied to Serbia by Russian gas giant Gazprom. Marjanovic suggested that the gas deliveries would assure Serbia energy supplies to get through the upcoming winter. Deliveries will reportedly start in mid-September (AP, Itar-Tass, September 6). Moscow has opposed Western efforts to isolate Belgrade and has said that it would defy a ban–backed by the United States and several other key NATO allies–on assistance to Yugoslavia.