Russian Troops Will Serve in Stabilization Force
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
CAMP DOBOL, Bosnia, Dec. 5, 1996 About 1,200 Russian troops will be part of Phase 2 efforts to bring peace to Bosnia, according to Russian military leaders here.
About 1,500 Russian troops now serve in the year-long peace implementation operation ending Dec. 20. Phase 2 of the peace mission involves deploying a 31,000-strong stabilization force, including a Russian brigade and about 8,500 U.S. troops.
SFOR will continue providing a secure environment for another 18 months, allowing civilian organizations to continue rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, economy and political structure, U.S. defense officials said.
A Russian brigade served in IFOR as part of the American division in northern Bosnia. Concern that the two nations' forces would not be equally even-handed led to a decision to create joint patrols.
American and Russian troops patrolling side by side is one of the success stories of the peace implementation force, according to U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry. "The reciprocal respect and understanding which has been created at the leadership level and the troop level have been a key to success for this mission," Perry said. "Those bonds that have been formed will translate into increased cooperation in the future."
Perry spent Thanksgiving Day in Bosnia, his second stop in an eight-day trip around the world to visit deployed U.S. forces and to meet with international defense officials. He invited Russian and other Partnership for Peace nation military leaders to join him for Thanksgiving here.
In a brief press conference after a traditional American turkey dinner, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Toporov said IFOR operations have dispelled Russian skepticism about whether NATO troops and Russian troops could work together.
"Fifty years ago during the Second World War, Russian and American soldiers shoulder by shoulder carried out the real combat missions in order to give peace to this land," Toporov said through a translator. "The peace we have currently given to this land is pretty fragile, but it's still peace."
"The leadership of the Russian Federation, including the ministry of defense, truly believes the decision to open the second phase of this operation gives the possibility to fully and successfully implement and set up a lasting peace," Toporov said.
Contributing a brigade allows the Russians to conduct their mission somewhat independently, he said, while also providing an opportunity to cooperate with the other contributing nations and with NATO and American forces.