Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 112

The U.S. military experts visiting Moscow today are likely to get a taste of Russia’s unhappiness over the Kosovo peace plan. To date, the U.S. and other NATO governments have made clear that the international security force being deployed in Kosovo must–whatever its formal subordination–be a predominantly NATO operation with a unified NATO command structure. Western political and military leaders have also said repeatedly that Russian peacekeeping forces, if they are deployed to Kosovo, must in some way be subordinated to this unified command structure. By this same logic, the Russian forces will also not be permitted to administer their own sector in Kosovo. NATO leaders have underscored their unwillingness to sanction any partition of Kosovo. That is a rebuff to reported Russian proposals aimed at establishing a Russian military presence in northern Kosovo, which is an area particularly important to Belgrade and one it would like to keep firmly under its control.

All of this suggests that today’s Russian-U.S. military talks in Moscow are likely to be difficult. The Russian delegation is to be headed by Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, a noted hardliner who oversees Russia’s military contacts with other countries. Ivashov was also part of the delegation which negotiated last week’s breakthrough agreement with the European Union and the United States. Afterward, he accused Russian delegation head Viktor Chernomyrdin of making unnecessary concessions to the West and of having violated President Boris Yeltsin’s negotiating instructions. In a pointed reference to those talks, Ivashov said that he would hew close to Yeltsin’s instructions during today’s negotiations with the U.S. delegation. He also suggested that he would attempt to “correct” the negative consequences of Chernomyrdin’s negotiations last week.

More substantively, Ivashov underscored Moscow’s determination to avoid any subordination of Russia’s Kosovo peacekeeping contingent to NATO command. He also suggested that Moscow would, in fact, seek its own sector of responsibility in Kosovo, and that it would likewise oppose the deployment of NATO troops in that sector. Moscow would accept, he said, the stationing of troops from neutral countries or other CIS states in its area. In addition, Ivashov said that Moscow would propose that its troops be deployed in the northwest sector of Kosovo. That, presumably, is exactly where Belgrade would like to see them stationed. He called, finally, for the assigning of Russian Defense Ministry personnel to the command staffs of peacekeeping contingents in other sectors of Kosovo. Chernomyrdin made the same proposal in comments of his own to reporters yesterday (Russian agencies, June 9).

Russian officials, meanwhile, appeared to be still struggling yesterday with the number of troops they are prepared to commit to Kosovo–and the manner in which the deployment would be financed. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev spoke of four possible deployment plans, and said that these deployments would involve anywhere from 2,000-10,000 Russian troops. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, meanwhile, told Russian lawmakers that the government was considering sending from 5,000-10,000 troops to Kosovo. He estimated that the cost of such deployments to the Balkans would cost the government approximately US$150 million dollars per year. The Russian government could, according to Stepashin, expect the UN to compensate it for those costs by the end of the year. The remaining question, which Stepashin then raised, is how Russia would find the money for the troops until the reimbursement materialized (Russian agencies, June 9).