Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 108

Sergeev gave no indication that Moscow had acquiesced to this alleged last-minute pressure. But the possibility that Chernomyrdin may have made some unexpected concessions was suggested not only by reports of yesterday’s final agreement, but also by rumblings which were said to have emerged from within the Russian negotiating team. Russian television reported on the evening of June 2, for example, that the military members of Chernomyrdin’s delegation had “spoken categorically against the agreements signed” by Chernomyrdin during the Bonn talks. Those officers reportedly said that Chernomyrdin had, in essence, blocked the UN from fully exercising a peacekeeping role in Kosovo and failed to demand an immediate halt to the NATO bombing campaign. He had also, they said, “handed over the solution of the Kosovo problem directly to NATO generals,” and thus “violated the principles laid down in Russia’s position on the resolution of the Kosovo crisis.” The officers likewise charged that Chernomyrdin had violated the negotiating instructions given him by Yeltsin (NTV, June 2).

During his visit yesterday to Belgrade, Chernomyrdin appeared to deny those charges. He reportedly emphasized to reporters that the Russian delegation “is not departing one step” from the instructions it received from Moscow. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, one of the key military members of the Russian delegation, likewise denied the NTV allegations. “There were no differences within the Russian delegation during the talks,” he said (Russian agencies, June 3).

What made Ivashov’s denial less than compelling, however, were remarks made by the outspoken and hardline Russian general only two days earlier. On June 1, Ivashov told reporters in Moscow that the Russian negotiating delegation would not agree to NATO’s demand that a postconflict Kosovo security force must include U.S. and other NATO troops. He also warned bluntly that Moscow might break off the peace talks if Moscow perceived them to be nothing more than a cover for NATO’s goals of forcing a complete capitulation on Belgrade (see the Monitor, June 2).

If–when full details of yesterday’s Kosovo agreement become public–it becomes clear that Chernomyrdin made unexpected concessions to NATO, there could be a considerable political outcry in Moscow. Elite opinion in Russia has been virtually unanimous in its condemnation of the NATO air campaign in the Balkans, and many Russian officials have reveled in their self-professed roles as defenders of the Serbs–and of international law.

That sort of viewpoint was in evidence anew on June 2, when the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament said that preparations were underway to create a tribunal, one which would investigate “NATO crimes in the Balkans.” It was also in evidence when Nobel prize winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the same day, compared NATO’s behavior to that of Hitler. The one-time Soviet dissident also described the International Court of Justice in The Hague–which has indicted Milosevic on a war crimes charge–as a “circus” and an institution unworthy of respect (Russian agencies, June 2).