Center for Strategic Decision Research


Russian Participation in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Colonel General Leontiy Pavlovich Shevtsov
Deputy to SACEUR for Russian Forces

Our Russian Ministry of Defense Operational Group has been working at SHAPE for 21 months supporting Russian participation in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The main objective of our group was to find a way that was acceptable to both Russia and NATO for the Russian Federation to participate in the operation. The task was difficult. After years of confrontation during the Cold War, it is not easy for those of us who lived during that time to attempt to develop relations with NATO and, moreover, to participate together with NATO troops in a joint military operation for the first time since World War II. The decision that Russia would participate in a joint operation with NATO was a political one. The President of the Russian Federation decided that Russia would participate in the operation. But how? What would be the mechanism of command and control? Although it was a peacekeeping operation, it still was a military operation, with all the underlying principles such as unity of command, a common system of airspace management and ground movement control, and interaction of different services and types of troops, to name but a few.

The issue had much deeper implications. Could the militaries of Russia and NATO work together? As you well know, a lot was at stake, much more than a purely military problem. In reality, the foundation for future Russia-NATO cooperation, the fundamental element of European security, was being laid down. And such a global objective imposed a special responsibility on SHAPE, on General Joulwan personally, and on the Russian group members. Many people said: "It will not work. You will quarrel in a week and go home having achieved nothing." Russian politicians would say: "If the militaries find a common language and a solution, then we will catch up and look for concrete ways for our state participation in the operation as well as its size and troops numbers."

As an example, in a period of three months the Russian Minister of Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Defense conducted four meetings, but progress was very slow. The decision to send a group of officers from the General Staff of the Russian Federation to SHAPE was adopted at a Geneva meeting on 8 October 1995. However, the Ministers understood that it was difficult to solve this problem during short meetings on their level. Daily time-consuming and detailed work had to be done. So a week later on 15 October 1995 a group of five people and I arrived in Mons. I had studied NATO and SHAPE when I was at Academy with quite a different purpose. Now I had to tread this ground and tackle practical problems. I think you would understand my feelings.

We did find an arrangement for Russian participation. It was approved by the Russian Minister of Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and later by the Presidents of both countries and NATO leadership. So the militaries have found an agreement. The main obstacle has been removed. But how did we manage to agree? We agreed because: (a) We really wanted to find a solution to the problem; (b) we understood how important it was; and (c) General Joulwan had the necessary attitude towards finding the solution for this problem and towards the Russian Operational Group. So much of our success can be attributed to his very personable, friendly, and cooperative attitude, especially at the beginning of our relationship. We depended a great deal upon this man. I can only say that he was the right person in the right place for this concrete task.

But, it is one thing to solve an issue on paper and quite another thing to implement it. We needed to coordinate many aspects of the arrangements, especially during Russian brigade deployment by air--the issues of joint Russia-NATO airspace management system. The brigade had to be deployed in the minimum amount of time. I can only say that the militaries found common language much faster than the diplomats and politicians because they do concrete, practical things and are used to thinking more about real business than about geopolitics. Let me give you one example of this wonderful work. Russian planes with airborne troops and equipment used to land in Tuzla and unload in 20 minutes with their engines running, then immediately fly back to Russia before the next plane landed. You can see how efficiently they worked (when meteorological conditions permitted.) The Russian Independent Airborne Brigade (OVDBR) carried out deployment to the theater in an organized manner. For a year and a half it cooperated successfully with NATO, specifically the American Division. We worked very well during the first operation, "Joint Endeavour." In the second operation, "Joint Guard," General Joulwan and I went a step further. General Joulwan issued a directive focusing not just on cooperation but on joint training of Russian and American units. Individual and collective training programs were worked out and now are being carried out. General Joulwan and I personally checked the training in Camp Bedrock on 4 June 1997. Joint training is being conducted successfully. Joint Live-Fire Exercises between U.S. and Russian artillery units are taking place presently.

From all of this we can see that the military of Russia, the U.S., and NATO can solve problems together. And this is most important. We may conclude that we can closely cooperate in the military area and solve any problems successfully.

How do we see the development of Russia-NATO military cooperation? With the signing in Paris of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, a political basis for further development of military cooperation between Russia, NATO, and the U.S. has been established. Now we can openly discuss this subject. But before the Founding Act was signed, it had been extremely difficult to work because of different statements of different political leaders. A fundamental course in Russia-NATO relations has now been set. According to the Founding Act, a Russian permanent military mission at NATO will be opened within the framework of the Joint Permanent Council. Another direction will be participation in PFP. Three years ago Russia signed documents on Russian participation in PFP. I think that now this participation will be more active.

I also think that one of the main directions of future cooperation lies within joint training for coalition peacekeeping, peace support and, if necessary, peace enforcement operations. In future operations we should use this coalition, this multinational force model (when the European community solves conflicts in hot spots) so that we may avoid potential global conflicts. Here a lot is to be done. Future directions of joint work in this area could focus on joint doctrine preparation for such operations; joint training programs; joint Command Post Exercises; and Russia-NATO officers training.

I would like to conclude with the following. One of the journalists I met before the beginning of the Workshop asked me with great surprise if Russia was participating in this Workshop. I told him that he still thinks in the terms of the Cold War. It is normal for Russia to participate in such a Workshop. And it is not normal when Russia does not.


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