RUSSIA AND UKRAINE AGREE WITH NATO

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Multilateral negotiations over resolving this conflict were recently completed in Macedonia. Macedonian and Albanian political parties agreed about the inclusion of Albanians in the local police. The parties also decided that in the provinces where the Albanian population is more than 20% the Albanian language would be another state language. Observers note that for President of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, these are disgraceful agreements because the Albanian militants who occupied the northern part of the country would actually remain there legally for a long time. Many observers say that such an agreement was signed because Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko, who was present at the negotiations, announced that Kiev would not supply weapons to Macedonia until there was peace in the country.

It is not a secret that Skopje managed to somehow resist the invasion by Albanian separatists, which started six months ago, due to military aid from Kiev. In March 2001, Macedonia received two Mi-24 combat helicopters and four Mi-8 military transport helicopters from Kiev from the wing which operated in the Balkans. In early July, Kiev sold four Mi-24 helicopters and four Su-25 assault airplanes from its Air Force. The actions of these aircraft were recognized as very successful. On August 3, 30 tanks and 20 armored personnel carriers arrived in Macedonia from Ukraine. It is reported that these vehicles were not bought from Ukraine, but were only repaired there. In 2000, the government of Bulgaria presented 90 T-55 tanks to official Skopje, and 30 of these tanks were repaired in Ukraine. However, this lethal weapon was not used in combat operations against Albanian militants. At present, there is a kind of truce in Macedonia, and the militants will wear police uniforms on a legal basis. It is possible that they, as policemen, will also receive a part of Ukrainian armored personnel carriers.

Meanwhile, NATO representatives do not cherish any illusions about peacefully resolving the conflict in Macedonia. The logistics services of KFOR, which have been deployed in this country, are currently withdrawing. These services found a better place for their basis – Yugoslavia which became “friendly” after the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic to the tribunal in the Hague. According to available information, NATO confidentially requested the government of Yugoslavia to provide military bases in the northern and southern parts of the country to KFOR for the logistics of the peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo should the situation in Macedonia aggravate. NATO plans to organize the military-transport and transshipment facilities in Novi Sad and Nis. The response by Belgrade to this proposal is not known yet. However, observers do not rule out that the incumbent Yugoslav authorities will agree with the NATO proposal because the maintenance of NATO bases in Yugoslavia will create new jobs for citizens of the country who became poor due to wars. Russia did not voice its attitude to the peace talks in Macedonia yet. On the eve of the negotiations Russian Defense Minister made a statement that was very important for NATO and the European Union. The minister said that Moscow would not send its troops to resolve the conflict in Macedonia. Thus he hinted that Trajkovski would not receive any assistance from Moscow. The minister emphasized, “We do not see any sense in this. With regard to Kosovo we will watch the situation there and will make corresponding decisions if it develops this way or the other.” Along with this, according to Sergei Ivanov, “The withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Kosovo or Bosnia is out of the question.”

At this point there are several questions. What is the purpose for Russian forces to be in the Balkans? To protect the interests of the country or the interests of NATO?

Now it is difficult to understand the goals and tasks of the policy which Russia is attempting to pursue in the Balkans. During the Navy Day celebration, Russian President announced that Russia would remain a large world naval power, although prior to this the Russian Defense Ministry had announced the liquidation of Russia’s only overseas navy base in Kamran (the technical maintenance bases in Syria and on Cuba are not counted). Where is the logic?

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