Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 154

Tensions over developments in the Balkans have remained high not only between the Russian contingent and the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo, but also between Russian political and military leaders and their Western counterparts. For all of that, the Kosovo peacekeeping mission remains the one area in which Moscow and the Western alliance have resumed military ties since peace was established in the devastated province.

In a move which could presage a broader easing of relations, however, sources in Moscow said yesterday that Russia’s top military representative to NATO, Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin, would return to Brussels sometime in the near future. The sources were also quick to point out, however, that the move should not be interpreted as a step by Moscow toward reconciliation with NATO. They said that Zavarzin’s consultations at NATO headquarters would involve only the Kosovo mission, and not broader cooperation issues (Russian agencies, August 23).

Zavarzin led the surprise dash of Russian paratroopers to Pristina on June 12 and is thought to be one of a core of hardliners in the military leadership who oppose any quick easing of relations with the West in the wake of the Yugoslav conflict. On August 7 then Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin presented awards to the 200 or so Russian paratroopers who had made the march to Kosovo under Zavarzin’s command (AP, August 7).

Issues related both to the Kosovo mission and to broader military cooperation between Russia and the West–including arms control issues–are sure to be on the discussion agenda when U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen travels to Moscow in mid-September for talks with his Russian counterpart, Marshal Igor Sergeev. The two had been scheduled to meet last month at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi. Reports differed at the time over who had requested the meeting, and it was also unclear why the talks were canceled only days before they were to have taken place. They would have marked the first meeting between the two military leaders since relations ruptured over NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia.