Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin yesterday decried a recent initiative in which a group of southeastern European countries agreed to create a multinational military force that is to be used to help keep peace in the Balkans. Russia was not among the countries invited to take part in the talks that concluded with the creation of the new peacekeeping force. Rakhmanin described the slight as an attempt “to limit Russia’s involvement in the consideration of military and political problems of the Balkan region.”
He complained that Moscow had been excluded from the meeting despite a request to attend. He also intimated that Moscow was displeased because of its belief that the new peacekeeping force would be “fully bonded to certain nonregional organizations and countries”–a reference, presumably, to the NATO alliance and the United States. Rakhmanin suggested that Moscow’s influence was in fact being limited in the Balkans despite international assurances that Russia could play a stabilizing role in the region. He also said that Russia’s exclusion from the latest initiative “runs counter to the efforts of the international community to ensure durable peace and stable development in the Balkans” (Russian agencies, Xinhua, September 29).
The grouping to which Rakhmanin referred is called the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial. It is made up of three NATO allies–Italy, Greece and Turkey–as well as Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania. The United States, which supports and helped launch the new grouping, will serve along with Slovenia as one of the group’s observers. Defense ministers from the countries involved met in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, on September 26 to finalize the agreement. The new peacekeeping force, which reportedly has been welcomed in Washington less for its military significance than for what it could do for regional cooperation, is expected to be ready sometime next year. It will consist of a brigade of some 3,000-4,000 troops (New York Times, September 27).
TOKYO AND MOSCOW LOOK TO GET CONTACTS BACK ON TRACK.