powers and accountability
The first time that Soviet servicemen joined a military mission under international auspices was in November 1973, when thirty-six officers became part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UN TSO). It was after “the Governments of the United States and of the Soviet Union, in a joint approach to the Secretary-General [of the United Nations], offered to make available observers from their countries for service with UN TSO…The Secretary-General accepted these offers with the informal concurrence of the Security Council.”1 Thirty-six US officers were also assigned to UN TSO.2
In early 1975, while a student of international law at the Moscow Institute of International Relations, I discovered this fact. I was writing a paper for a joint conference with officer-students of the Military Institute, and in the process I came across a UN publication about the world body's efforts to maintain peace in the Middle East. It contained a picture of a Soviet army captain with his French counterpart somewhere in the middle of a desert.
Little was knowntothe general publicin the former Soviet Union about such assignments of the military until 1992, when the Russian Federation dispatched a whole unit, rather than individual officers, to the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in the former Yugoslavia. Even an enlightened outside observer was unlikely to gain access todocuments that would have shed light on the decision-making process resulting in Soviet servicemen leaving their home bases, donning blue berets and landing, in the words of a popular song, in “far-away places with strange-sounding names.” In the USSR, there was no legislation that established domestic procedures for assigning members of the armed forces to missions under international
1 United Nations, The Blue Helmets, AReview of United Nations Peace-Keeping (3rd edn.,
New York, United Nations, 1996), p. 29.
2 See Appendix B, “Country participation in international operations, 1945–2000” for
information on Russia's contribution.