WILL THE FULL-SCALE RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA AND NATO BE REVIVED?

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Yielding of Moscow causes discontent of the public

Thus, according to the official information, on June 19 after a three-month break Russia and NATO agreed in Helsinki that they would again become partners. According to the signed agreement, Russia is to participate in the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo together with the alliance. In Kosovo Russia will deploy 3,600 its peacekeepers, who will receive zones of responsibility in the American, French and German sectors, will be in charge of functioning of the airdrome in Pristina and will be represented in the command structures of all levels. Political and military control over the Russian contingent is given to the Russian command, On June 28 a group of Russian officers flew to Brussels to plan the joint peacekeeping operation in the conflict area. Large-scale transportation of Russian troops to Kosovo is to be started from July 5.

A possibility of changing of the area of the Russian troops deployment is stipulated depending on circumstances and agreement of the parties. Russian Defense Minister announced: “The variant has been found, which enables us to actively participate in the peacekeeping operation, effectively command the contingent and collaborate with the neighbors.” He stressed that the problem of sectors had been solved.

Meanwhile the thesis that Russia will be able to actively participate in the peacekeeping process is already disputed by Russian public. The unprejudiced analysis of the situation shows that actually not a single principal demand of Moscow with regard to Kosovo was met, and the achieved compromises regarding deployment of Russian troops and their command in the conflict might result in casualties and loss of the troops controllability.

In accordance with the Helsinki agreement, the troops are to be deployed in the mountain and forest terrain which is difficult to access, majority of its population being Albanian. KLA has already declared that it would not stop combat operations against the Russian troops, because they are Serb allies. Thus, provocations against the Russian troops in Kosovo and hence casualties cannot be ruled out. What is the most important, removal of the Russian peacekeepers from the Serb border deprives the troops of strategic initiative and cooperation with the Serb armed forces. The Russian troops in Kosovo were supposed to be concentrated in one place. Henceforth 3,600 Russian peacekeepers will receive the zones of responsibility. Dispersion of the Russian peacekeepers will hinder their command. Moreover it will be a serious drawback in case of emergency circumstances (militants’ attacks, civil unrest and so on). According to the agreement between Russia and US, changing of the place of the Russian troops deployment is possible, but only with permission of NATO command.

Russian leadership is soothing the public saying that Russian troops will be under political and military control of Moscow. However in reality the Bosnian model of multinational forces command in the conflict area will be reanimated. That is, NATO commanders will set the tasks for the Russian commanders, then the Russian commanders will set these tasks on behalf of the Russian command for the whole Russian peacekeeping contingent. However scattering of troops in different zones stipulates that Russian commanders will be presented in each sector headquarters. According to the agreements achieved in Helsinki, the Russian representatives will be “along the whole vertical” of the KFOR command structures. Thus, we can say that Russian peacekeepers will be under political and military control of Russia with some reservations. At any rate diplomats are optimistic. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov pointed out that after signing of the agreement “we all are entering a very responsible stage of Kosovo problem solving.” He characterized the found solution as completely meeting the orders which the Russian delegation received from President Yeltsin.

Answering the question what will happen to the frozen relations between Russia and NATO next, Ivanov said that, first of all, relations with NATO members are preserved and, second, after stopping of combat operations grounds appear for revision of the Russian position. So far no decision was made about full-scale cooperation with NATO. Ivanov stressed that Moscow is currently considering the scope in which relations with the alliance could be restored. If the corresponding decision is made, stressed Ivanov, “naturally, there will be contacts with the leadership which at that moment heads this organization.”

Meanwhile it is known that some political groups and public leaders in Russia speak against renewal of relations with NATO. It is known that the inter-faction group of Duma deputies protests “against the genocide of the Serb population of Kosovo as a result of gross infringement on the agreements on resolving of Kosovo conflict by NATO.” The statement released by the group and signed by its chairperson, Duma Vice Speaker Sergei Baburin, stresses that genocide of the Serb population of Kosovo and Metohia was started “with tolerance and often with evident participation of NATO occupation forces.”

According to the deputies, all this “was the result of deliberate gross violation of the agreement on disarmament of KLA by NATO and unhindered letting of its large detachments with heavy weapons through the Yugoslav borders controlled by the alliance.” The KLA is acting in accordance with the scheme prepared by NATO, say Duma deputies. According to the anti-NATO group, this scheme represents the blocking of roads by the KLA, taking of Serb hostages and their murder in deserted Albanian villages and other places. The parliament members add that “The bodies of the killed will be later shown to UN observers and journalists as the bodies of Albanians killed by the Serbs before withdrawal of the Yugoslav army.” Members of the anti-NATO group say that the agreement on rapid withdrawal of Yugoslav troops which prevented evacuation of all civilians, refusal of NATO to disarm the KLA and significant delay of NATO troops incursion were the “elements of the same plan.”

According to the authors of the statement, this plan stipulates “preparation of the propaganda and legislation base for unilateral revision of the achieved agreements with regard to Kosovo, occupation of the whole territory of Yugoslavia and issue of death sentences by the UH Tribunal in the Hague to Yugoslav leaders,”

We cannot say how right is the anti-NATO group. However we can agree with some conclusions of the Russian deputies. For example, large-scale incursion of Russian troops in Kosovo expected after the meeting of Federation Council on June 25 did not take place. It turned out that the airdrome in Slatin guarded by the Russian paratroopers from Bosnia is not fully ready for intensive operation. This looks a little bit strange, because, first of all, aircraft already landed there, and, second, were it not ready for operation, it could have been repaired beforehand. The matter is evidently that for NATO it is not beneficial to have a Russian military infrastructure in this territory, because the alliance is occupied with incursion of its own troops. Meanwhile the international military aviation specialists groups are to prepare the airdrome for certification in accordance with the international standards within a few days, and only on July 5 beginning of large-scale arrival of Russian troops to the Balkans is scheduled. NATO representatives say that the general control over the airdrome in Slatin is to be conducted by its commander. This also provokes discontent of the Russian militaries, but they, as Defense Minister Igor Sergeev often announced, still hope that the honest relations will be established.

We cannot say how honest will be relations between Russia and NATO. Many achieved agreements on partnership are taken by the parties in different ways. Meanwhile, NATO General Secretary Javier Solana hopes that NATO and Russia “might open a new chapter of bilateral relations and revive active cooperation through the joint permanent Russia-NATO council.” He announced this in late June in Budapest at the international seminar organized by NATO. In his speech Solana stressed that Russia “plays an important role in the efforts of the international community for securing of long-lasting peace in Kosovo.” He added that Russia “was the key player in the diplomatic process” of the conflict resolving, including its participation “through the efforts” of special presidential plenipotentiary Victor Chernomyrdin.

Solana specially pointed out that “the people of Serbia should have a possibility to fully use advantages of integration into the Euroatlantic community,” but for this Serbs are “to stand on the path of democracy and tolerance”, which “will not happen while Slobodan Milosevich is in power.” According to him, “there is no place for Milosevic in Europe of tomorrow.”

Solana speaks well, but in reality there are no partnership relations between Russia and NATO. Russia did not announce that it considers Milosevic a criminal, but it also does not comment officially on its attitude towards activities of the current President of Yugoslavia. Only Director of the Main Department of International Military Cooperation of the Defense Ministry Colonel General Leonid Ivashov announced that Russia would not detain Yugoslav servicemen and politicians who are alleged criminals without the orders of country’s authorities.

Thus, Moscow is gradually starting contacts with NATO, although shy and cautions. This shyness is aggravated by the secondary role of Russia in resolving of the Kosovo conflict. It is quite understandable that on the eve of elections this is a powerful trump for the opposition which is severely criticizing the current authorities of the country.

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