Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 164

Despite ongoing recriminations over developments in Yugoslavia and on a host of other issues, Russia and the West appear in recent days to have moved slowly and warily toward a resumption of talks on several key security problems. The slight easing of tensions in this area follows a freeze put on cooperation with NATO–and on military-to-military contacts with leading NATO nations–by Russian leaders following the launching in March of the alliance’s air war against Yugoslavia. Moscow, however, continues to play to the hilt the role of aggrieved partner. Its ongoing accusations of a Western betrayal over Kosovo suggest that Russian leaders are determined to drag out the reconciliation process for as long as possible, and to use it in an effort to exact concessions from the West. Against this background, talks between Russia and the West on various security issues are likely to proceed in fits and starts and to be conducted amid constant threats and actual pullouts by Moscow.

Russian truculence has been much in evidence in its relations with NATO, which have been limited by the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry to talks on issues related only to the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. That apparently continues to be the policy, though the Kremlin last week chose at last to send its top military envoy back to NATO headquarters in Belgium. Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin, the man who commanded the surprise dash by Russian paratroopers to Pristina in June, was recalled by Moscow following the launching of the NATO air campaign in March. Russian military officials made it clear on September 1 that Zavarzin’s resumption of his duties in Brussels does not mean that Moscow intends to widen its cooperation activities with NATO beyond what is necessary for the Kosovo mission (Russian agencies, September 1).

For all of that, Russia and NATO did at least conduct a sitting on September 6 of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council, the first to be held since before the start of the hostilities in Yugoslavia. The joint council, created during a visit by President Boris Yeltsin to Paris in May of 1997, is the primary consultative mechanism between Moscow and the Western alliance. There will reportedly be a meeting of the permanent joint council at the ambassadorial level on September 15.

The September 6 meeting was, according to Russian sources, devoted solely to discussion of the Kosovo peacekeeping mission. In that regard, it provided yet another opportunity for Moscow to protest NATO’s alleged coddling of the Kosovo Liberation Army and the West’s failure, in Moscow’s view, to pursue the complete disarmament and disbandment of the guerrilla army. Moscow’s protest on this occasion came in the form of an appeal by General Staff chief General Anatoly Kvashnin. Zavarzin, in turn, apparently tried to convince his Western counterparts that the actions of the KLA in Kosovo are linked to a broader Islamic fundamentalist movement that is also behind Russia’s current problems in the Caucasus and Central Asia. He argued that–under the cover of religious and ethnic slogans–separatists in Kosovo are determined to break Kosovo away from federal Yugoslavia (RIA, September 6).