|Analysis: Russia Coordinates New Broadside Against OSCE
By Liz Fuller
At Moscow's instigation, the six CIS states that are members of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization (Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), together with Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, issued a statement in Vienna on 8 July harshly criticizing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and calling for a fundamental refocusing of its priorities and activities.
The statement, which was adopted during a meeting of CIS heads of state in Moscow on 3 July and bears the imprimatur of the Russian presidential press service, charged that the OSCE "does not respect such fundamental...principles...as noninterference in internal affairs and respect for national sovereignty," and that it is guilty of double standards by focusing "selective attention on certain states while ignoring problems in other states." It claimed that the OSCE's humanitarian activities are restricted to "monitoring the human rights situation in the countries of the CIS and former Yugoslavia," and that this almost exclusive focus on the human rights dimension "significantly restricts" its ability to counter new challenges and threats.
The statement further targeted the OSCE's Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), noting that its primary activity of election monitoring is frequently "politicized and fails to take into account the specifics of individual countries." Over the past decade, ODIHR monitoring missions have criticized as failing to meet European standards most of the ballots, both parliamentary and presidential, in all the nine states that signed the condemnation.
The joint statement also criticized as "ineffective" the OSCE's field missions in the CIS, noting that their financing consumes a significant chunk of the OSCE's budget. It claimed that instead of fulfilling their mandate "to provide assistance to the government of the host state," those missions concentrate "exclusively" on the human rights situation and engage in "unwarranted" criticism of the domestic political situation.
It concluded that "the OSCE's agenda should include the swiftest removal of the imbalance between the three dimensions of the organization's activity by increasing the role of its military-political, economic, and environmental elements," and called for drafting "new approaches" to the organization's work.
Speaking in Moscow on 8 July, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov warned that Russia and other CIS states might "lose all interest" in the OSCE if it continues to "degenerate" rather than reform.
This is by no means the first time that Russia has criticized the OSCE for allegedly neglecting the security aspect of its original mandate. Exactly 10 years ago, in July 1994, then-Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev formally proposed that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), as it was then called, should assume the role of an umbrella organization with overall responsibility for coordinating security in Europe, in cooperation with NATO, the West European Union, and the Council of Europe. A Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax on 20 July 1994 that other CIS states supported that Russian proposal. A Russian parliamentarian said the Russian proposal was prompted by NATO's shortcomings, specifically with regard to peacekeeping. He said NATO's Partnership for Peace program launched earlier that year "is an interesting forum for cooperation in military training and joint exercises, but it does not...guarantee security in Europe." But the underlying Russian rationale was clearly concern at the prospect of NATO expansion to incorporate one or more of the former Warsaw Pact countries.
At its summit in Budapest in December 1994, the CSCE changed its name to reflect its enlarged membership and shifting priorities in the wake of the collapse, first of socialism in Eastern Europe, and then of the USSR. But Russian politicians continued to lobby persistently for enhancing the OSCE's security component and specifically for the adoption of a new European security charter. Addressing a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Copenhagen in December 1997, then-Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov argued that the OSCE "should be the appropriate framework for the reinforcement of pan-European security." At the same time, he urged that the proposed OSCE charter should not mandate "interference into the domestic affairs of member states."
The new OSCE security charter was finally adopted at the Istanbul OSCE summit in November 1999. It outlined intended "new steps," including enhancing the focus on security, expanding the OSCE's role in peacekeeping, and the need to counter the growing threats of terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking. It also stresses the potential threat to regional security posed by "acute economic proble