Yesterday Boris Yeltsin forcefully resurrected Russia’s old proposal for a pan-European security system featuring a "European Security Council" with decision-making powers. He offered the idea in the context of combating NATO’s eastward expansion, and indicated that he would push his plan with French president Jacques Chirac during his upcoming Paris visit, and thereafter at the UN. Yeltsin characterized NATO activity in the former Yugoslavia as "violating the UN charter" and "barbaric", and accused UN Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali of "inconsistency." He said NATO troops in a possible Bosnia peacekeeping operation must be limited to "parity level" with Russia, possibly two regiments and one battalion for each side. He insisted on UN Security Council authority over the operation. To avoid NATO operational command over the Russian contingent, he proposed dividing Bosnia for peacekeeping purposes into sectors of exclusive responsibility of Russian and other troops. Finally Yeltsin called for a top-level Bosnia peace conference in March 1996 in Russia, which should be considered successful even if it only managed to adopt a declaration of principles. (2)
The pan-European security scheme, thought dead for some time, is a device for subordinating NATO to the OSCE. The "European security council" created within the OSCE would function as a great-power directorate, and would include Russia as a permanent member with veto rights. The proposal was a nonstarter with the West and was also opposed by the East and Central European countries. The notion of dividing Bosnia into zones of responsibility may well develop into a sphere-of-influence concept, although Yeltsin disclaimed the intent to seek responsibility only for Serb areas. (But a contradictory precedent was created when Russian peacekeeping troops were deployed in certain Serb-held areas of the former Yugoslavia on the grounds that they enjoyed Serb confidence.) Yeltsin’s proposal for a peace conference in March in Moscow seems to presume the failure of the impending US-sponsored meeting of the Serb, Croat, and Bosnian presidents, due to convene October 31 in the US.