Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 126

After months of often frenetic activity connected to developments in the Balkans, yesterday was a quiet day–at least in terms of headlines–for Russian officials dealing with the Kosovo peace mission. The most noteworthy event was an address delivered in Moscow by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who repeated Russia’s call for a strengthened UN, and Moscow’s contention that military actions by the United States and Britain in Iraq, and by NATO in the Balkans, have undermined the prestige and authority of the world body. Ivanov said that the UN “needs to adapt itself to new tendencies in international relations, and to reform its mechanism” of operations. He provided no specifics, however, as to the recommendations which Moscow might make to reach these goals. In his speech, finally, Ivanov also once again charged that NATO actions in Yugoslavia had disrupted relations between Russia and the Western alliance, and he said that Moscow was now deliberating over its future ties to NATO (Russian agencies, June 29).

The call for a revitalized UN is a standard one for Moscow, and is part of a broader vision of a post-Cold War system organized around the principle of “multipolarity”–that is, multiple centers of international power and influence. Moscow sees itself as one of those centers, naturally, and seeks the strengthening of international organizations like the UN–or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–which might serve as counterweights to the United States and NATO. The UN figures especially prominently in Moscow’s plans because of the UN Security Council veto that Russia inherited from the Soviet Union. At a time when Moscow’s military and economic power are a shambles, and when its political life in general has degenerated into a daily soap opera, the UN Security Council gives Russia at least one effective, institutionalized tool by which to pursue its great power pretentions. With the new millennium approaching and the international system still in flux after the Cold War, Russian officials can be expected to promote their vision of a future world order with increasing insistence.

But if Moscow sees its participation in the Kosovo peacekeeping force as one sign of its great power status, as seems to be the case, then Russian leaders must at least figure out how they are going to get their troops and material to the Balkans. In recent days senior Russian military officials have spoken repeatedly of their readiness to dispatch a Russian force to Kosovo. But they still seem to lack an effective plan of action for carrying out the deployment. This seeming confusion in Moscow was on display yesterday when the command staff of the Russian Navy reportedly informed journalists that four large landing ships from the Black Sea Fleet would depart for Yugoslavia from Sevastopol on July 10. In all, they said, some eight ships carrying personnel and equipment to Kosovo would set sail for Yugoslavia in July.

Later in the day, however, the commander in chief of the Russian navy denied the existence of any such plans. Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov told reporters that he had received no orders regarding the transportation of Russian forces to the Balkans. Indeed, he said that he had not been involved in planning Russia’s military mission there at all. The commander of Russia’s Airborne Forces, meanwhile, suggested yesterday that Moscow has not yet decided on a plan for moving men and material to the Balkans. Colonel General Georgy Shpak said that military planners were still considering air, sea and rail options (Itar-Tass, June 29).