True Europe and Policy Options in the Balkans and the Black Sea Region

Several kinds of evidence demonstrate that Russia treated the organisation with far greater respect than any other international structures. First, Russia actively promoted the transformation of the conference into a proper international organisation. Back in 1992, the OSCE Summit in Helsinki issued a lengthy document entitled The Challenges of Change, which described in great detail the work and procedures of the OSCE and foresaw for the emerging organisation a special authority in case of conflict between its members. In addition, the document in one way or another mentioned that all major international organisations, including the EC, NATO, WEU, and the CIS, were ready to get involved or provide resources to support the OSCE.34 Russia repeated similar calls at most of the ministerial meetings of the OSCE.35 Russian media paid considerable attention to the OSCE that year stressing that the organisation was moving from words to deeds.36

Another indication of the special role of True Europe that Russia attributed to the OSCE was the expectation that not only would the OSCE become an institutional basis for rejecting the Hobbesian logic of the Cold War, but that it would also make Russia a full-fledged member of the Western security community based on Kantian logic.37 The first Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation adopted in 1993 demonstrated the special role that Moscow attached to the OSCE. It contained a separate chapter on the organisation with numerous references to its possible role that demonstrated how Russia wanted to see the CSCE become an important pillar ofEuropean security. In addition to the issues of a European security architecture, the institutionalisation of Russia’s peace-keeping role in the CIS, military reforms, the protection of minorities, and other hard security problems, Moscow expected the OSCE to "facilitate Russia’s integration into the common European space”, to harmonise "its legislation up to world standards in human rights and the rights of national minorities”, and finally, it “was to assist in transforming the Russian economy into a market economy”.38 The last point shows that Russia was prepared to accept OSCE’s authority even in dealing with some of its internal affairs. Thus it is not surprising that in December 1992, Andrei Kozyrev chose the Ministerial Council of the CSCE in Stockholm (and not any other forum) to give a speech in which he articulated some radical views of the New Soviet Russian discourse. The aim was to demonstrate to Western powers that Russia’s future foreign policy would become much more aggressive if they did not pay attention to Moscow’s grievances regarding NATO’s enlargement and other issues of European security.39

This perception of the OSCE as True Europe also resulted in numerous efforts on the part of Russian diplomacy to put any international conflict-resolution efforts in the Balkans into an OSCE framework. Although Russian rhetoric on conflict resolution in the Balkans and the Black Sea region devoted about the same amount of time to the UN and OSCE and although many decisions and operations were conducted under the aegis of the UN, Russia envisaged a broader and deeper role for the OSCE. Moscow supported all the OSCE nations’ presence in the Balkans. Russia supported the deployment of the first OSCE Missions of Long Duration to the FRY in Kosovo, Vojvodina, and the Muslim- populated areas of Sanjak.40 Moreover Moscow prioritised its re-union with True Europe over its friendship with Serbs. When the FRY refused to renew the mission’s mandates, Russia supported UNSCR 555 of August 1992, which was critical of Belgrade’s decision.41 As the conflict in Bosnia grew in intensity and the role of Belgrade in backing Bosnian Serbs and the atrocities became obvious, Russia had to endorse the suspension of Yugoslavia from the organisation in October 1992.

The supremacy of the OSCE can be seen when one looks into how Russia used its participation in great power group meetings (the G8, Contact Group, and International Conference for Former Yugoslavia) to promote the OSCE. Although Moscow was one of the conveners of the London Conference on the Former Yugoslavia in August 1992, it nevertheless asked the Secretary General “to determine how the CSCE process can be used to further the goals of this Conference”.42 During the Sarajevo crisis in 1994, Russia again suggested that the OSCE should be transformed into the leading European institution with the role of coordinator of the efforts of NATO, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union, and the Commonwealth of Independent States. At the CSCE Budapest Summit at the end of 1994, Yeltsin personally voiced proposals to elevate the role of the OSCE to become the main security organisation in Europe. The same interplay manifested itself in Russia’s conduct during the negotiation and signature of the Dayton Agreements. Although some Russian nationalists were not particularly comfortable with these Western initiatives, the Kremlin pursued a collaborative approach in order to secure its part in deciding Bosnia’s fate. Once it was consulted during the Dayton negotiations and was granted the right to host one of the last and symbolically important meetings of the Contact group in Moscow, Russia accepted the Agreements but insisted that it should be the OSCE that would take over the formal realisation of the Dayton Agreements in Bosnia.

Similarly, with every new crisis in the Balkans Russia tried to channel international efforts into the OSCE framework and used it to raise anew the question of placing the OSCE at the centre of the European security architecture. When the Serb opposition held numerous rallies against Milosevic, protesting against the stolen elections of December 1996,43 and when Milosevic tried to prevent the OSCE from gaining ground in the political stand-off,44 Russia insisted on resolving the crisis through the intermediary of the OSCE.45 In the conflict between Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and his moderate opponent Biliana Plavsic, Russia supported the latter.46 When the OSCE reached a decision that Karadzic should leave, Moscow accepted this decision and even participated in the NATO operation to take over the TV-broadcasting facilities controlled by Karadzic, as well as other operations in the repub- lic.47 It seemed that the OSCE provided a useful umbrella for Russia’s calling to change the fate of Bosnian Serbs.

The same motive drove the first Russian response to the Kosovo crisis. Kosovo remained low on Russia’s agenda in 1996-1997 when the West was not particularly preoccupied with that province. But once the situation in Kosovo became a focus of Western politicians and media, Russia sought a re-union with True Europe (OSCE) to decide the fate of Serbia. Moscow offered Belgrade a detailed plan for an international presence under the OSCE’s aegis.48 Moscow again tried to promote the organisation when Yeltsin invited Milosevic to Moscow in June 199849 and also later in October when a top Russian delegation visited Belgrade.50 When Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy, made repeated visits to Belgrade, Moscow never missed an opportunity to raise the idea of bringing the operation under the OSCE umbrella. Even decisions of the Contact Group were to be approved or implemented by the OSCE.51 Russia once again linked the Balkans with the Black Sea region when it used its own experience of hosting the OSCE mission in Chechnya in an effort to persuade Milosevic to admit OSCE monitors. The hopes that Moscow had for the OSCE as the True Europe were serious. Russia’s high expectation was commensurate with its disappointment when Belgrade did not accept this desired role for the OSCE. It is highly indicative that when a Serb referendum rejected the Russian proposals, Izvestia headlined its report with the strong statement “Serbia has said no to Europe”.52 This type of response runs as a red line through the entire period of the 1990s and suggests that regardless of internal party-political preferences (neo-liberal Kozyrev or Centrist Primakov), there was a singular driving force behind Russia’s foreign policy, namely to take part in changing the fates of nations in the Balkans. This great power practical element effectively shaped Russia’s representation of various European actors.

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