Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 170

Although representatives of the two sides hailed the results, a meeting of Russian and NATO ambassadors in Brussels on September 11 appeared to mark a less than auspicious beginning for the newly created Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council. According to Western reports, Russian ambassador to NATO Vitaly Churkin used the meeting to accuse the U.S. and its Western allies of "not acting in an even-handed way" in Bosnia and of failing to consult properly with Russia in implementing policies for NATO peacekeeping troops in the region.

Churkin complained, among other things, that NATO forces were violating the terms of the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia by pursuing accused Serb war criminals and by threatening both to renew trade sanctions against Belgrade and to jam or otherwise stop radio and television broadcasts controlled by hard-line Bosnian Serb forces. The Russian charges came amid a worsening political confrontation between rival Bosnian Serb leaders and the West’s concomitant decision to back President Biljana Plavsic against the hard line faction led by former president Radovan Karadzic. Churkin warned that NATO’s actions could undermine the fragile truce in Bosnia and might undermine the Russia-NATO relationship.

The September 11 meeting was the second of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council at ambassadorial level. It was convened in part to prepare an agenda for the new council’s first meeting at the ministerial level, scheduled for September 26 in New York. A senior NATO diplomat described the meeting as "very disagreeable," and suggested that it was "not a good omen for the future work of the NATO-Russia council." (The Washington Post, AP, September 12)

Both sides appeared to downplay the discord, however. A NATO statement released after the meeting said that the Alliance had always kept Russia fully briefed on its operations in Bosnia and it emphasized that the two sides had agreed on the need to "vigorously implement" the 1995 Dayton accords. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s chief spokesman, Valery Nesterushkin, followed on September 12 with a statement denying suggestions that Moscow is planning to discontinue its participation in the Bosnian peacekeeping mission. He also said that Churkin’s remarks at the meeting should not be interpreted as "evidence of a rupture or a sharp worsening in relations between Russia and NATO." (Russian agencies, September 12)

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