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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Commander Upbeat on Russia

NATO's supreme commander Thursday praised Russia for taking part in the alliance-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia, saying such operations could be the foundation for the security of post-Cold War Europe.


General George Joulwan described the Russian troops in Bosnia as "well trained, well equipped, well led and highly motivated" in a brief news conference capping a three-day visit to Moscow.


"We're very, very pleased to have the Russian forces join us in bringing peace to Bosnia," he said.


Joulwan was carefully upbeat, avoiding any comment on Moscow's vociferous objections to NATO's eastward expansion.


Some Russian officials have gone so far as to say it could bring on another world war.


The Bosnia operation, he said, is laying the groundwork for "a new security relationship for Europe well into the 21st century."


It took much time and effort for Russia, which did not want to take orders from its Cold War foe, to agree on a formula for its participation in the mission. Finally, it was agreed that NATO orders would go through a Russian general, not directly to Russian troops in Bosnia.


Joulwan described relations between Russian and NATO officers in Bosnia are "excellent." But he acknowledged that his talks with Defense Minister Pavel Grachev touched upon a Russian officer who met with the Bosnia Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, who is wanted for war crimes.


Major General Nikolai Staskov, a deputy commander of Russia's airborne troops now serving in Bosnia, met with Mladic in December.


NATO officials were highly critical of the meeting, which raised questions about Russia's neutrality when it comes to its historical ally, the Serbs.


"It doesn't give us a lot of joy to see this happening," Major Nigel Branston, spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Zagreb, said at the time.


Joulwan did not give any details of the discussion about Staskov other than to say Grachev had assured him that "appropriate steps" would be taken.