Bosnia inspires compromise plan for Russian troops
June 13, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and Russia could look to Bosnia for inspiration in trying to resolve a standoff over the role of Russian troops in Kosovo.
As presidents and generals of the two countries continue talks to iron out their differences, U.S. officials suggested Sunday that the Russians could have a "zone of responsibility" within an area controlled by NATO peacekeeping forces, similar to an arrangement in Bosnia.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, after an hourlong talk by phone on Sunday, agreed on one matter -- that NATO and Russian generals should figure out how to include Russian troops in the NATO-led force, said a White House spokesman.
Clinton and Yeltsin agreed to speak by phone again on Monday, as military and diplomatic officials continue talks in Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo to resolve the conflict.
To NATO's surprise, about 200 Russian troops on Saturday arrived ahead of alliance soldiers to take control of the airport in Pristina, Yugoslavia. On Sunday, the Russian force blocked British KFOR units from the strategic airfield.
Moscow has insisted that Russian troops patrol their own sector. NATO has remained equally adamant that all troops with the Kosovo peacekeeping force, called KFOR, work under NATO command.
Despite the tension, a compromise could be emerging. Russian and U.S. officials have worked out a "framework" to enable Russian troops to participate in KFOR, according to a Clinton administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On CNN's "Late Edition," U.S. Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested Sunday that Russian troops could have a "zone of responsibility" within one of the NATO-administered sectors.
U.S. officials have pointed to the example of Bosnia, where 1,300 Russian troops in the U.S. sector receive "operational directions" from a U.S. general, but have a separate chain of command through a Russian general at NATO headquarters or Moscow.
"It's worked out well in Bosnia," Defense Secretary William Cohen said on "Late Edition."
"We think it will work well here. We just have to work out the details," he added.
What about the Russian refusal to serve under NATO command? The compromise could allow the Russians to serve under a general from a non-NATO country, perhaps Finland, who would in turn report to NATO, sources told CNN.
Shelton said the Russians would likely contribute about 2,000 troops to the peacekeeping operation, which is expected to total about 50,000 troops.
KFOR will divide the Serbian province into five zones, controlled separately by British, French, Italian, German and U.S. troops.
British Defense Secretary George Robertson suggested that Russian intransigence could have financial consequences. When the G-8 group of major industrial nations meets later this week, it will discuss continued economic aid to Russia.
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and Reporter Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.
NATO peacekeeping commander arrives in Pristina
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