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Any international security mission for Iraq will be under U.S. command. This would set the stage for a replay of the Kosovo scenario.
RUSSIA IS not likely to send its peacekeepers to Iraq even though Foreign Ministry officials have not ruled out the option if the United Nations Security Council supports a multinational force for Iraq. Russia has just pulled out of a similar arrangement in the Balkans wishing it had never joined in, in the first place.
The quiet withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Kosovo was in stark contrast to their triumphant arrival in the region in June 1999 after the 78-day NATO bombing war against Yugoslavia. Russia stunned the West when about 200 of its paratroopers undertook a daring 600-km raid from Bosnia across Yugoslavia and into Kosovo, stealing a march on NATO. The local Serb population gave a rousing welcome to Russian troops as liberators and protectors against Albanian militants. However, Moscow's plan to fly in reinforcements from Russia even as the NATO command mulled over the shocking news that the Russians had occupied the strategic Pristina airport fell through when East European countries closed their airspace to Russian transport aircraft on the request of NATO, which they craved to join.
In the end, the Pristina raid proved little more than a damage control exercise by the whimsical Russian leader, Boris Yeltsin, to camouflage his abrupt turnaround from staunch support for Yugoslavia to blatant sell-out when he persuaded the Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, to accept a Western ultimatum and agree to a NATO occupation of Kosovo.
Russia voted for the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which mandated an international peace force for Kosovo, KFOR. The resolution called for "the deployment in Kosovo, under United Nations auspices, of international civil and security presences." The text of the resolution did not say clearly under whose command the peacekeepers would be deployed, but an annexe appended to the resolution mentioned rather evasively that the security force should include a "substantial NATO participation" and be "under unified command and control."
This ambiguous wording deprived Russian diplomats of any bargaining power to press Moscow's demand for its peacekeepers to serve under Russian command in a separate sector of Kosovo populated predominantly by Serbs to prevent their ethnic cleansing by Albanian militants. A Russian force of 3,600 paratroopers, vastly outnumbered by NATO troops, was split between the American, French and German sectors under NATO command.
Resolution 1244 tasked the international security force with "demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups" and "establishing a secure environment in which refugees and displaced persons can return home in safety." Neither demand has been enforced. The KLA became Kosovo police and Serbs terrorised by Albanians continued to flee Kosovo.
Contrary to the U.N. Security Council demand that Kosovo "enjoy substantial autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," the region has gained de facto independence from Belgrade.
Russia's withdrawal from KFOR was precipitated by the U.S.-led war against Iraq, which Moscow strongly opposed. As soon as the U.S.-British forces attacked Iraq, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, began talks with NATO on the Kosovo pullout. As Russian paratroopers packed up, television showed painful pictures of Kosovo Serbs complaining that the "Russian brothers" had betrayed them by leaving them alone to face Albanian violence.
However, Mr. Putin, who is striving to reassert Russia's influence in global politics, could not afford to share responsibility with the U.S. for further dismembering what remained of former Yugoslavia and seeing Kosovo turn into a hotbed of terrorism and drug trafficking in the heart of Europe. Nor could Mr. Putin, who has been arguing for a stronger U.N. role in international affairs, be seen as conniving in the flouting of the Security Council resolution on Kosovo.
History may now repeat itself in Iraq. As things stand today, there is no chance that the U.S. would be prepared to let the U.N. take over control of peacekeeping in Iraq. The U.S.-drafted resolution calls for a timid "U.N. Assistance Mission." Even if the U.S. agrees at some stage for a broader U.N. mandate, any international security mission for Iraq will be under U.S. command. This would set the stage for a replay of the Kosovo scenario.
When Russia's partners in the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States — Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan — scramble to jump on the American bandwagon in Iraq, their motive is to win U.S. favour and patronage.
Russia is a different case. By pulling out from Kosovo, Mr. Putin has sent a clear signal that Russia will no longer pull chestnuts from the fire for others.
© Copyright Vladimir Radyuhin 2003 For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .