UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wound up a two-day visit to Moscow yesterday during which the Kosovo peace settlement dominated talks with the Russian leadership. Annan met during his stay with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and, yesterday, with President Boris Yeltsin. Russian reports suggested that Annan had emphatically thanked Moscow, both for its role in the conclusion of a Kosovo peace settlement and for the Russian government’s long defense of the UN’s authority and prestige. Ivanov told reporters that Annan had expressed his “deep, personal gratitude” to Yeltsin for the Russian president’s Kosovo peace role.
It is unclear how much of Annan’s seemingly effusive praise of Moscow’s peace efforts was on the level. Western leaders have also spoken highly of Moscow’s role in brokering a Kosovo peace deal. But more than a few observers believe that the praise heard in the West is much exaggerated, and is intended less to reflect reality than to ease Moscow’s humiliation over its declining influence on the world stage. It is also intended, they would say, to obscure the unglamorous role which Moscow actually played during the Kosovo peace talks as a conveyer of Western terms for Belgrade’s capitulation.
Ivanov also claimed yesterday that Yeltsin and Annan had jointly agreed that a “multipolar world model must be enhanced,” that this multipolarity is “the only right way to ensure security and stability in Europe,” and that “a new world order must be built on respect for international law and strengthening of the United Nations’ role” (Russian and Western agencies, June 23-24).
It is unclear what Annan’s interpretation of these words might be. But for Moscow they are standard catch phrases encapsulating the Kremlin’s goal of reducing the influence of the United States and NATO throughout the world while simultaneously raising that of Russia. More specifically, they are formulations reflecting Moscow’s contention that NATO policy in the Balkans was both tragic and criminal, and that the proper way to have dealt with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was through peaceful negotiation. Based on that logic, Moscow has also denounced the war crimes indictment leveled against Milosevic by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague and largely dismissed allegations of atrocities by Serb forces in Kosovo.
On a more pragmatic level, Annan informed his hosts during his stay in Moscow that he intended to include Russian officials in the civil administration which the UN is organizing for Kosovo. Annan told Ivanov that there would be “Russians in the team,” but that it was too early to say how many. The UN plan for administering Kosovo calls for the appointment of four deputies serving under a special representative (AP, Russian agencies, June 23).
Annan has already named a French official and a New Zealand refugee expert to two of the four deputy posts, but has yet to make the other three appointments. Moscow, however, is pressing hard for one of the two remaining deputy posts, and for other positions throughout the new Kosovo administration. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters on June 23 that “we hope that, with due account taken of the role Russia has played in the settlement of the Kosovo crisis, Russia has won the right to be properly represented in the agencies in charge of the civilian operation in Kosovo” (Russian agencies, June 23).
A Russian diplomat suggested yesterday that Moscow may be angling to get influence in Kosovo through the civil administration that it failed to get by means of the peacekeeping operation. The diplomat described the civil administration as ultimately more important than the military because it would deal with economic and political issues (Russian agencies, June 24).
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