2010 is very momentous for the OSCE: the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act as well as the 20th anniversary of the Charter of Paris, which has put an end to the ‘Сold War’, are to be marked.
These jubilees fell on the complicated period of the Organization existence. It became a consequence of sharp contradictions between Western countries and Russia. The Russian politicians are complaining of imbalances in the OSCE activities. Upon their opinion, it is concentrated mainly “Eastward from Vienna” – in the countries of former Yugoslavia and former USSR. Besides, in terms of Russia, there was formed an unjustified bias to the protection of human rights to the prejudice of other directions security, economy and ecology.
Moscow is also discontented by the autonomy of the number of the OSCE institutions, first of all Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is accomplishing elections monitoring. It openly accuses these institutions in preconception, double standards and, in essence, speaks that they “are privatized” by the Western countries, primarily the United States. From time to time the statements are heard that Russia does not need such organization, and even calls to come out from it.
In the result the OSCE summits were not convened for more than 10 years already. Moreover, due to insuperable disagreements for almost the same period of time the annual meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers are not able to adopt final communiqués.
On January 1, 2010, Kazakhstan has taken for a one-year stint a Chairmanship in the OSCE. It is the first former Soviet republic as well as the first Muslim country, ever to do so. Therefore there are no doubts that its every step will be scrutinized carefully.
In accordance with the Rules of Procedure, the directions of the Organization activities are defined to some extent by intentions of the chairing state though, of course, results of the activities depend on views of all member states. On this evidence it is of heightened interest, what will be offered by Astana, reaction of leading states, as well as possible results.
One cannot deny that declared plans look grandiose. On January 14 President Nazarbayev, in a video-taped address to the OSCE Permanent Council, has described his vision of the the state of affairs. The main point was an appeal to call for the OSCE summit in order to overcome the deadly embrace and reform the Organization.
"The 10-year interval that passed from the last OSCE summit, demonstrates that fundamental unity turned out to be under threat if not in crisis. Now is the time when the leaders of the OSCE member states should demonstrate their political will and focus on solutions to the difficult challenges facing our nations. A summit would not only give a powerful impetus to adapting the OSCE to modern challenges and threats, but would also increase the confidence and respect enjoyed by the Organization itself among our peoples,” he said.
According to Nazarbayev, the agenda of the summit could include topical security matters in the OSCE area of responsibility, as well as the situation in Afghanistan and issues relating to tolerance.
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It is worth to note here that there are no any appreciable discords between the European Union and the United States inside the OSCE. Their approaches over all questions of principle are practically the same. When it comes to the US position, it, with very rare exception, is supported by all member states of the EU and NATO, and vice versa.
The position of the Obama administration is that there should be no summit just for taking photographs. Only if it can accomplish something, including in the core areas of the OSCE, including human rights, then it can take place. So taking into account that for many years it was impossible to elaborate even common ministerial communiqués, the event seems to be of low probability.
Many other priorities of Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship are traditional: addressing terrorism, working to resolve protracted conflicts, co-operation on transport and promoting tolerance. They want to focus on regional stability situation, drug trafficking, illegal arms trade. Afghanistan is a common concern.
In spite of such abundance of already existing problems that require the most quick decisions, Astana has declared its intention to enlarge the list by providing versatility of acting nucleus weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), strengthening interethnic and interconfessional tolerance and a number of other topics.
The most vital of the OSCE security mechanisms are the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the Vienna Document, and the Open Skies Treaty. While observance of the two last agreements does not cause particular troubles, the West remains very concerned about Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in CFE in December 2007 that has raised serious concerns among its partners and within the OSCE as a whole, and continues to urge that they return to full implementation as soon as possible.
But Moscow, from all appearances, is by no means inclined to go towards this call. And it is difficult to imagine that Astana dares to put on it in this sense a strong pressure. So, I guess, there are no real grounds to reckon upon some shifts in this aspect.
At the same time there are no doubts that being closely politically and economically connected with Russia, Kazakhstan will actively push forward all its proposals. Accordingly, relatively recent Russian idea – to bring forward a new security arrangement for Europe – will be supported by Astana for sure. It is another thing that Western participants have thought to it very chilly. There is almost the total consensus that the focus should be on improving the existing network of institutions, rather than trying to invent new ones. So this initiative, most likely, will not be rejected directly, but its implementation looks to be practically unrealistic.
As for already mentioned NPT, the proposal seems to be rather strange since amongst OSCE member states there are no countries, having any problems with this agreement. Therefore in case of need all of them will support readily a resolution offered by Kazakhstan, calling, for instance, to consolidate in every way possible the nonproliferation regime, however concrete decisions concerning this subject will be taken in quite other places.
Kazakh officials have argued that their country is uniquely qualified to help mediate in disputes between other former Soviet republics.
Nagorno-Karabakh. Kazakhstan is going to participate actively in the negotiation process under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group that since 1992 has sought to mediate a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Nazarbayev has twice tried already to bring Armenia and Azerbaijan to the negotiating table – in 1991 and again in 1992 – but both those bids came to nothing.
Of course, anyone will not remonstrate against such effort as well. For clear reasons the United States and European Union are to a very large extent interested in solving this old conflict. However it seems to be extremely low-probable that Astana will manage to score a success. The point is that for the moment and in foreseeable future the positions of the sides look mutually exclusive. So it is hard to imagine that Kazakhstan will be able to offer some new variants, which would allow to find some mutually acceptable solution.
Georgia. Kazakhstan has had a very good relationship with Georgia, as it does with Russia. It has significant investments there, in energy sector and the like. Despite Astana supported the decision taken by the Shanghai Group, which condemned Tbilisi’s behavior in August 2008, it offers the opportunity to expedite an improvement of the strained relations between Georgia and Russia by urging both countries to open the Verkhny Lars border crossing.
But the problem is much wider, there’s open conflict between Georgia and Russia in which any process does not work.
United States and European Union express their firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. For the beginning they intend to continue to seek the return of the OSCE mission in Georgia. According to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, “It was playing an important role in South Ossetia. South Ossetia and Abkhazia both need independent international observers so that we can understand what is going on there. They need access to humanitarian groups and NGOs. Transparency is the key principle within the OSCE. We are grateful that the European Union has the monitoring mission in Georgia. This is now the only eyes and ears of the international community directly on the ground. However, that this is not enough, because they are not in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
Gordon declared that the US intends to raise the question again. The EU also encouraged the Russian Federation, the only country that was against, to reconsider its position for the sake of security and stability in the region. However there are practically no chances that Moscow will listen to these appeals, and this situation will not be resolved positively, too.
Transdniester. Though Kazakhstan did not make in advance any special statements on the problem of Transdniester, where hitherto, notwithstanding the 1999 OSCE Istanbul summit decision, Russian troops were stationed, the West will not permit it to leave this problem apart. Otherwise it is not excluded that some member states will acknowledge existing there separatist regime.
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At the OSCE Ministerial Council that took place last December in Athens, Sweden made a statement on behalf of the EU member states. It is said there they remain firmly determined to seek a settlement of the Transdniester conflict on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. They called for the resumption, as soon as possible and without preconditions, of negotiations in the 5+2 format, the only forum capable of guaranteeing the transparency and legitimacy needed to achieve a lasting solution.
However because of remoteness of this region it causes much smaller interest of Astana itself. Therewith hard position of Moscow in this case as well practically does not leave hopes for its positive solution.
Afghanistan. Solving Afghan problem was declared as one of the Kazakhstan’s priorities. Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev promised to help rebuild Afghanistan, an OSCE Partner for Co-operation: “We view the development of the situation in that country from the point of view of global security and the fight against terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking. Helping the Afghan people to transform their war-torn country into a peaceful, productive and self-sustained society based on democratic principles and values is an important task for the OSCE and the whole international community.” It is supposed that in 2010 a corresponding international conference can be held in Astana.
Afghanistan really represents a great headache for the US and Europe. They cannot simply leave it, otherwise everything will be exploded there. So they want to see where OSCE legitimately can play an important role on both enforcement and training of future generations of Afghanistan. The OSCE secretariat proposed 16 projects to enhance Afghan border security, including a welcome emphasis on building Afghan capacity. But so far only a few of these projects have been implemented.
However should Kazakhstan be really able to play successfully the role of negotiator in this issue, then, in my opinion, such opportunity would be given it long before its Chairmanship. It seems that the last circumstance is of no importance for ‘Taliban’.
Kazakhstan authorities completely share Russian approach to internal policy, and are harshly criticized for it by international human rights organizations. They would ungrudgingly exclude from consideration the questions connected with the third basket, but not dare to do it fearing hard reaction of the West.
According to the traditional American approach, one of the most important features of the OSCE is that it recognizes that security is not just about what happens between states or beyond borders, but what happens within them.
However last time human rights defenders have been disappointed with the words and actions of today’s Washington administration. President Obama and many of his senior officials have signaled their disinterest in fundamental human rights: in the highly visible international visits, this item has not been in the spotlight.
It is very alert. It is inadmissible to forget that one can never achieve security without building it on values.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that of all multiple, both voiced already and supposed, Kazakhstan’s initiatives as an acting OSCE Chairman, only few have chances to be supported by all members of the Organization. Moreover due to known circumstances the most significant of them obviously will not be among them. And those that will not meet counteraction, also hardly bring any effect since other reasons prevent, removal of which is out of the OSCE facilities.
All in all it is to be expected that, in spite of declared Kazakhstan’s efforts, essential changes in the OSCE will not happen this year. Suspicions even exist that all this ballyhoo was raised in order Nursultan Nazarbayev could become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
On the whole it is difficult not to agree with assertions that he peak of the OSCE activity is behind already. Really, scale of its ctivities, say, in Balkans, steadily decreases. At the same time the estern policy with respect to the post-Soviet space noticeably becomes more active and gains more certain outlines.
Thus six countries from East Europe and South Caucasus become ast year members of the EU program ‘Eastern Partnership’, the riority directions of this political dialogue being such traditional or the OSCE questions as supremacy of law, democratic institutions, ree elections and human rights.
In other words the West already now gradually enters the OSCE ield by interaction with all post-Soviet countries. For instance, itherto Brussels, financing about 70% of the OSCE projects there, referred to act via this organization. But now more and more loud are oices of those in the European Union, who consider that it is proper ime to undertake the solution of the problems, with which, to all ppearances, the OSCE cannot manage.
So one can hardly expect that the United States and united urope will put forward any suggestions over cardinal OSCE reforming ince, on a large scale, at present the state of affairs there does ot bring them serious problems. It is not worthy also to expect from hem certain new global initiatives on solving the problems in the SCE competence. The West understands perfectly well that any change nacceptable for Moscow, will be blocked by it and/or its satellites.
Nevertheless a question arises, whether West will agree should remlin offers it a kind of bargain: return Russia to the CFE Treaty n exchange for some concessions, e.g., either removal of requirements o withdraw Russian troops from Transdniester, or recognition of ndependence of mutinous Georgian territories, or support of its nitiative on new collective security agreement.
Unfortunately it is prematurely to reject such a possibility ategorically. It is wanted, however, to hope that opponents of Moscow ill not agree with such sort of a deal and not allow Russia to ealize its antidemocratic intentions. Otherwise it would mean final masculating ‘spirit of Helsinki’, rather weak one as it is, and ransforming the OSCE into regional resemblance of the UN.