U.S. Statement at Reinforced Meeting of the IWG on Structured Dialogue
Session I: “OSCE principles under strain. The undiminished relevance of the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris”
As delivered by Jorgan Andrews, Office of Eastern European Affairs
September 5, 2017
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I’m glad to be here today to convey the importance my government attaches to the Structured Dialogue and to this specific discussion of the continued relevance of the core principles underlying European security. My experience working on these issues – I am the Director for the Office of Eastern European Affairs – has made clear to me the impact that violations of core OSCE principles have on the lives of the people on the ground in regions affected by protracted and active conflicts in Europe.
While we are not geographically far from Tbilisi, Chisinau, or Kyiv, here in the Hofburg it certainly seems like we are a world away. In this hall, it is natural when thinking of core principles to think first of the Decalogue of the Helsinki Final Act, as the title of the session does. After all, this is where the most prominent principles of European security are enshrined, including refraining from the threat or use of force, territorial integrity of States, peaceful settlement of disputes, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
But the acquis of the OSCE is much broader than the Helsinki Final Act and has evolved over time, including its reaffirmation in the Charter of Paris. Core principles in the UN Charter have also long upheld the European security order. Unfortunately, we have also witnessed considerable back-sliding on adherence to those principles over the last fifteen years. The solemn commitments made at the 1999 OSCE Summit in Istanbul related to the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova have not been fulfilled in their entirety. Russia is violating its legal obligation under the CFE Treaty to obtain the consent of the host state for stationing of foreign military forces. In the Charter of Paris, all the members of the OSCE “fully recognize[d]the freedom of States to choose their own security arrangements.” In the Helsinki Final Act we all committed to refrain from the threat or use of force against neighbors. Russia violated these pledges through its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine. We reject Moscow’s assertion that the choices of Ukraine made freely, for example, to associate with the European Union or to develop its relationship with NATO was any threat to the Russian Federation. OSCE commitments related to human rights remain under attack, including one of the OSCE’s core premises, enshrined in the 1991 Moscow Document, that commitments undertaken in the human dimension are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and are not exclusively internal affairs.
The hard issues we face in European security today cannot be resolved in the absence of political will by certain participating States to uphold the international principles and norms to which they agreed in full.
The instability, uncertainty, and mistrust we see in Europe today is a direct result of the assault on these core principles, principally by one participating State. Some say that Europe’s security architecture is no longer valid; it’s outdated; it’s not relevant to the 21st century. We disagree. There is nothing wrong with European security structures and little lacking in the OSCE’s principles and its acquis. The problem stems from the actions of a select few that have disregarded these principles and enabled the resulting conflicts. We need to hold those who undermine the OSCE’s principles accountable, not seek to rewrite the core acquis of this Organization and the European security order.
Yesterday’s panelists seemed to suggest that conversation, that talking, is the answer when basic principles are violated. Certainly political dialogue is important in situations of tension and crisis. That’s why NATO and Russia continued political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council in 2014 and do today. But in a situation where basic principles have been violated, conversation cannot continue as if nothing had happened. We need the will to hold nations to account for their actions, and our discussions should key off of those problems. The Structured Dialogue here at OSCE is one way to focus on those issues. A new arms control negotiation will not help solve hardest security issues we face in Europe today, notably in Ukraine. Rather, we need the political will to insist that violations of basic principles — like a military attack on a neighbor — have consequences for the perpetrator as well as the victims on the ground.
Unfortunately, thus far we have seen little evidence of such political will. Which leads us to ask what the OSCE can do under these circumstances, and how we prevent the actions of some from weakening the OSCE and what it stands for. My government would argue, at a minimum, that the OSCE must keep these principles on the agenda; it can continue to address the protracted conflicts and the hot war in our region; it can continue attempting to find solutions and stay engaged. What we must not do is forget about these conflicts; nor should we be willing to simply move on to other business. We need to take a serious look at the role this Organization can play to address these conflicts, in addition to supporting the existing negotiating bodies. In addition to political support – rather than accepting the status quo – we should consider whether the OSCE can support real, on-the-ground change, such as increased people-to-people contacts, demilitarization programs, information exchanges, better access by the OSCE, and other steps to improve the lives of the people affected by these conflicts.
We also need to engage here at the OSCE more broadly and speak openly about what ails the OSCE, which is what this Structured Dialogue is all about. This dialogue on security challenges should revalidate OSCE’s role as a premier forum for security issues in Europe, and such a dialogue can help us to rebuild trust where trust has been so seriously violated. We should intensify our efforts to address threat perceptions identified by participating States in April and meet regularly this fall and throughout 2018 to discuss issues in depth, record concerns raised, and take stock of what we must achieve together to move ahead.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.