Will Russia send its troops to Iraq?

Posted in Russia | 20-May-04 | Author: Dmitry Udalov

While the situation in Iraq continues to be unstable, different ways as to how the problem will be solved are being introduced. The question of probable participation of Russian military troops was raised by Russian mass media after the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Though no official claim was made that Russia would send its troops to Iraq, Russian media has no doubts that this topic is being discussed in the coming days.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on May 15 in New York immediately after the G8 Foreign Ministers' session held in Washington. They discussed a broad range of issues related to cooperation between Russia and the United Nations.

According to a MFA news bulletin, particular attention at that meeting was given to the situation in Iraq. The transfer of sovereignty is scheduled for June 30, a date seen by everyone as final. For the transfer of sovereignty to be truly genuine, the real work has yet to be done. In the UN leadership's estimation, a common understanding is now emerging that major politico-religious groups should represent the interim government of Iraq. It is evident that there should be Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds in it.

“It is obvious that this government is unlikely to be able to solve the questions of ensuring security in Iraq alone, and so apparently there is a need for a multinational force to be set up whose mandate will be entirely subordinated to the task of providing security and other necessary conditions for the continuation of the political process, in the first place for the preparation of the elections and organization of a normal life in the country for the period ahead,” said Lavrov at a press conference after the meeting with Annan.

Regarding a multinational force Lavrov added, “I think the talk can be about a multinational force, of which both the United States' troops and those of a number of other countries who are there will remain a part. There may be reinforcements from other, in particular Arab, countries. That's what many European figures are now calling for, and some representatives of Asian and Muslim countries are talking about this as well. I think these countries will take a decision when the specific contours of a mandate with which this multinational force will be provided become clear and when the attitude of the new Arab authorities towards the presence of the new multinational force on their territory clarifies.”

As we see, Lavrov doesn’t name Russian forces at all. But as the idea of a multinational force was introduced by the Russian Minister, Russia is likely to participate in that peacekeeping operation. That’s why Russian media is so concerned.

Further evidence that Russia will most likely send its troops is a joint military exercise of the Russian and U.S. armed forces called “Torgau-2004”. The communiqué issued by the U.S. embassy in Moscow says that the exercises will last until May 22. They are designed to expand working relations between the Russian and U.S. military during work at a joint staff. The joint staff will train the Russian and American brigades during a peacekeeping mission to protect a third allied country. All practical training will take place at the Vystrel training center in Solnechnogorsk, near Moscow, on May 20. Sixty servicemen from each side will participate in the exercise.

And the last (but not least) fact concerning the participation of Russia’s troops in aiding Iraq is the negotiations of the U.S. Presidential National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice which were held in Moscow. A resolution on Iraq was on the agenda of negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Condoleezza Rice met in Washington last Thursday to discuss how best to use the United Nations abilities in the Iraqi settlement. Yet Condoleezza Rice needed extra meeting with the Russian side. It can only prove that real agenda of Rice’s visit to Moscow was far more important then it was declared in official documents.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs news bulletin
Russian media
US Embassy in Moscow news bulletin