Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe: U.S. Helsinki Commission
“U.S. Policy and the OSCE: Making Good on Commitments”
Philip H. Gordon
U.S. Department of State Office of European and Eurasian Affairs
Michael H. Posner,
U.S. Department of State Office of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of Defense Office of International Security Affairs
Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
The Hearing Was Held from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in 210 Cannon House Office
Building, Washington, D.C.,
[Representative Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), CSCE], Moderating
Date: Thursday, July 28, 2011
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ): The commission will come to order,
and good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for being here for this very
important Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing. I’d like
to welcome our distinguished witnesses. It is not often that we have the honor
of hearing from three assistant secretaries at the same time, including two who
also serve as Helsinki commissioners, so you really should be up here –
(chuckles) – asking the questions. But thank you for being here and thank you
for your work on behalf of human rights and all of the three baskets that make
up the Helsinki Final Act.
Today we’ll explore the U.S. policy towards the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, a unique intergovernmental organization that
incorporates human rights and economic development into its comprehensive
concept of security. Unfortunately, over the past several years, OSCE
countries with poor human rights records have been able to thwart some of the
organization’s work on these issues.
Last December at the Astana Summit, the OSCE’s first summit since 1990, OSCE
states failed to reach consensus on an action plan laying out priorities for
the coming years. Yet, the OSCE needs to continue to focus on fundamental
human rights issues. This is its heritage, the reason it was created in the
1970s. It must not allow itself to be sidetracked by Russia or other un- or
semi-democratic states which argue that the organization should look only at
positive examples of best practices or that distract the OSCE from its work by
insisting on lengthy discussions of OSCE reform.
Likewise, our own government must raise the priority given to human rights and
humanitarian concerns, from supporting oppressed people of Belarus, turning
back the trend to restrict Internet and media freedoms, support democracy in
Kyrgyzstan and democratic activists throughout all of central Asia, making sure
the OSCE partnership program is used to generally promote human rights for
oppressed minorities; and as for the Copts in Egypt, helping OSCE countries to
address the disturbing and potential tragic demographic trends found in almost
all of the member states. All of these have been the subject of recent
commission hearings and as we look forward to working with the executive branch
on each and every one of these issues.
One issue I’d like to particularly raise here is the international child
abduction issue. I note parenthetically – and unfortunately due to scheduling
I will have to be absent for most of this hearing – but at 2:00 I’ll be
hearing, as chairman of the Global Health, Global Human Rights Africa
Subcommittee from Susan Jacobs and others about the efforts to bring children
home who have been abducted throughout the world.
The Hague Treaty is now some 30 years old. And unfortunately, much of its
implementing processes have been thwarted or mitigated by countries, especially
government authorities that have refused to take seriously their obligations;
and, you know, the hearing will focus on many of these countries, with a
particular emphasis on Japan. So I – regrettably I will have to leave for
that. Again, this hearing was actually put on before – or after, I should say,
I would also point out that at the OSCE parliamentary assembly in Belgrade
earlier this month, there was a resolution that we had authored as a commission
to take up the issue of international parental child abductions by promoting
better implementation of the Hague convention. My hope is that at the OSCE
ministerial in Vilnius this year we can look at standards for OSCE states to
fill the gaps in the convention’s implementation. Like I said, 30 years after
its signing there are huge gaps that must be looked at.
I’d like to also say that – and I mentioned this to Assistant Secretary Posner
just a moment ago – but last week we held a very disturbing hearing here in
this room and heard from three distinguished witnesses including Michelle
Clark, who all of you will recall was the director of OSCE trafficking work.
She did a landmark report on partner-country Egypt and focused on the issue of
the abduction and the forced marriages of Coptic women, often starting as early
as 14 and 15 years of age, who are then forced into Islam and then after that
forced to take up a Muslim husband. If that isn’t a definition of trafficking,
I don’t know what is.
This has been reported on, as I think all of you know, in the past in a cursory
way, perhaps, by many human rights reports. But she said – and she said it
with emphasis – that the idea that it’s a mere allegation must be stricken from
the record, that this is now a common practice and she estimated – and she did
on the ground investigations and, frankly, she actually told us she would going
back to do more on the ground human rights investigations – that thousands of
Coptic girls every year now are being abducted and forced into Muslim
marriages, obviously against their will, against the will of their families.
And drugs and rape are very often a means to expedite that conversion and that
marriage – an absolute horrific situation that has gotten scant coverage.
I plan – or actually offered an amendment to the foreign relations bill when it
was marked up last week in committee condemning this egregious practice. And
many of the members wanted more information after the markup, which we are
providing and have provided. And I do think it’s an issue we need to engage
I’d like to introduce our first panel, beginning first with Dr. Philip Gordon
who serves as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
Prior to assuming his position he was a fellow – a senior fellow at The
Brookings Institution. He also served as director for European affairs at the
National Security Council under President Clinton.
Michael Posner serves as assistant secretary for state for Democracy, Human
Rights and Labor. And prior to his current position he was executive direction
and then president of Human Rights First. And I would just say personally I’ve
worked with him for decades and it’s great to have him before the commission.
Before joining Human Rights First, he practiced law in Chicago, and he also
worked for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, which obviously became Human
Then we’ll hear from Ambassador Alexander Vershbow who serves as assistant
secretary of defense for International Security Affairs. A career foreign
service officer, he has served as U.S. ambassador to NATO, the Russian
Federation and the Republic of Korea. He’s held numerous senior-level foreign
policy positions principally focused on the former Soviet Union and the
And so I’d like to now ask our first panelist, Dr. Gordon, if he would proceed.
PHILIP GORDON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I’m honored to be here, and
appreciate the opportunity to talk about our agenda for the OSCE. I am
particularly pleased to be sitting here with my friends and close colleagues,
Mike Posner and Sandy Vershbow. I’d like to focus my remarks today on the OSCE
since the December 2010 Astana Summit which I attended along with Secretary
And I’d like to begin by looking at our core foreign policy goals for the
organization, reviewing our achievements at Astana and looking forward to the
OSCE’s ministerial in Vilnius this December. I’ve submitted a long version for
the record, and would like to just summarize here if I may.
REP. SMITH: Without objection. Your full statement and that of our
distinguished witnesses will be made a part of the record.
MR. GORDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Our approach to the OSCE rests firmly on
the foundation of relations with Europe and Eurasia as a whole. Europe remains
a key national priority for the United States for the simple reason that
nowhere does the United States have better, more valuable partners than in
Europe. The United States and Europe share common values, our economies are
intertwined, and our militaries work together to address common security
U.S. bilateral engagement with Europe is complemented by key multilateral
institutions, including the OSCE. Through the OSCE we engage on such U.S.
priorities as advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms, building
democratic institutions throughout the OSCE area, and advancing good governance
in the economic and environmental spheres, and military transparency. In this
period of tight budgets, multilateral approaches often present an effective
alternative to unilateral engagement.
Today, as you said, Mr. Chairman, the principles and commitments embodied by
the OSCE face some serious challenges both from the inside and outside of the
organization. From within, there is an uneven application of the Helsinki
principles. Regional crises and trans-national threats are proliferating.
Efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts, for example, in Georgia, Moldova
and Nagorno-Karabakh continue to face very frustrating obstacles.
To take another example, Russia’s determination to limit the role of the OSCE
in Georgia has diminished possibilities for international engagement in this
region where transparency and confidence building are sorely needed. Problems
like these make headlines, but they offer only a partial picture of the OSCE,
because the OSCE has also made tremendous contributions toward advancing
democratic prosperity and stability throughout Europe and Eurasia. Although it
is at time stymied by a lack of political will, the OSCE nonetheless remains
uniquely positioned to build confidence through military transparency, promote
good governance and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe and
At the Astana Summit last December, which was the first OSCE summit in 11
years, the 56 participating states issued the Astana Commemorative Declaration,
which was a stronger affirmation of the Helsinki principles and commitments of
the entire OSCE akey (ph) including, for the very first time, an explicit
statement that human rights situations in participating states are matters of,
quote, “direct and legitimate concern to all.” Because of disagreements over
the protracted conflicts, we were indeed unable to get consensus on an action
plan at Astana. But the final document tasks future chairmanships to develop a
plan to address a range of common challenges.
Since the summit, we’ve been working with the Lithuanian chairmanship as new
challenges present themselves. Among these has been Belarus. After a flawed
presidential election, the government of Belarus launched brutal crackdown
against the opposition and civil society following, and closed the OSCE office
in Minsk. Through the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism and other efforts, we
are working to hold the government of Belarus accountable for its failure to
protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In close consultation with Senator Cardin and others on this committee, we have
also taken concrete actions to address the tragic case of Sergei Magnitsky, a
lawyer who died in pre-trial detention in Russia. We’ve also worked with the
chairmanship to support greater OSCE assistance for North Africa. For example
ODIHR, at the request of Egyptian activists, is already holding a workshop for
Egyptian civil society on international standards of election observation in
advance of Egypt’s November parliamentary elections.
Looking forward to the December OSCE ministerial in Vilnius, the United States
is working with our partners to achieve results in all three dimensions. Very
briefly – in political-military dimension, we want to agree on a substantial
update of the OSCE central arms control document – agreement, the Vienna
Document, which we hope will be reissued at Vilnius for the first time since
1999. In the economic-environmental dimension, we to endorse greater economic
transparency, good governance and anti-corruption measures, as well as work
with the special representative on gender issues to empower women in the
economic sphere. In the human dimension, we hope to take the Helsinki Final
Act into the digital age with a decision that would explicitly acknowledge that
human rights and fundamental freedoms can apply to online activity as they do
to offline activity. We want to reaffirm and strengthen government’s commitment
to the protection of journalists.
We all know that a consensus-based organization with 56 participating states
sometimes moves in frustratingly small steps. The issues the OSCE faces can
seem intractable, but exchanging words is better than exchanging bullets, which
unfortunately we have experienced in the OSCE space in the last three years.
The OSCE has not yet lived up to its full potential, but the OSCE does good and
vital work and remains essential for protecting human rights, promoting
stability and spreading democracy throughout the region.
The Helsinki Commission; you, Mr. Chairman; the commissioners and the experts
on your staff play a vital role ensuring that the participating states keep the
promises made at Helsinki. With your support, the United States will continue
to play a leading role in the OSCE to strengthen, build upon the progress
participating states have made over the past 35 years, and bring us closer to a
truly stable, secure and prosperous OSCE region. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Gordon, thank you very much for your testimony. I – to note,
there are eight consecutive votes on the floor right now. I have 30 seconds to
get to the floor. Co-Chairman Ben Cardin will be here momentarily, but until
then we will stand in, momentarily, recess. Again, I apologize to our
SENATOR BENJAMIN CARDIN (D-MD): The commission will back to order. I
apologize; as I think Chairman Smith has indicated, the House has series of
votes. The Senate’s waiting on the House. We may be waiting a long time from
what I understand. So we – we’re sort of in that position. Obviously the
timing of this hearing was – we didn’t anticipate that we would be in the midst
of these negotiations concerning the budget. So we apologize to all of our
witnesses. I understand that Secretary Gordon, you’ve already completed your
opening statement, so we’ll go to Secretary Posner.
MICHAEL POSNER: Thank you, Senator Cardin. I ask that my written testimony be
submitted to the record.
SEN. CARDIN: Without objection, all of your statements will be included in the
MR. POSNER: Great. First, I want to thank you for holding this important
hearing at this time. And I want to focus my brief remarks on the human rights
and human dimension aspect of the OSCE.
First, for us, the OSCE is an important forum for raising human rights issues
in individual countries in concern. And in the written testimony, I focus in
particular on Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan. As Assistant Secretary Gordon
said with respect to Belarus, we see a refusal to extend the mandate of the
OSCE office in Minsk, its hindering of the Moscow Mechanism by not allowing a
special rapporteur into the country and now their resistance to joining
consensus on the agenda for the human dimension implementation meeting in
Warsaw. But it – by its obstructionist behavior, Belarus only draws more
attention to its poor human rights record.
We also have been and will continue to press for human rights with respect to
Russia. We’ve spoken out repeatedly at the OSCE Permanent Council and in other
OSCE fora about the – about the many unresolved cases, like the murder of
journalist Paul Klebnikov, human rights activist Natalya Estemirova and the
corruption and impunity as exemplified in the tragic case of Sergei Magnitsky,
Senator Cardin, you – a case in which you’ve played such an important role in
drawing international attention, and we thank you for that; also restrictions
on free assembly for groups like Strategy-31.
For us, the OSCE is particularly important, though, in the five Central Asian
states, which don’t really have another regional forum. And so the
comprehensive security we seek in the OSCE region, and in Central Asia
particularly – particular, will remain elusive until a range of serious human
rights problems are addressed. There is a pattern, for example, of serious
human rights violations in Uzbekistan. We’ve consistently raised our concerns
in cases like that of Dilmurod Sayid, a journalist who was imprisoned for
writing about corruption; Maxim Popov, who remains incarcerated for working on
AIDS issues; and we continue to advocate for fair treatment and due process in
these and similar cases.
We are committed to working with civil society in Uzbekistan and other Central
Asian countries to advance democratic reforms at a moment where those issues
are extremely difficult. But sometimes the engagement does yield results. And
I want to point in a positive way to the actions by the government of
Kyrgyzstan, which has decriminalized libel, an issue in which the OSCE
representative on freedom of the media has persistently focused.
A second broad point I want to make is that the OSCE remains a pioneering
process relevant in today’s world. It’s a comprehensive approach to security,
to human values – which are at the core of the Helsinki process – and there is
also a recognition of the vital role of civil society. The OSCE as an
institution and the civil society activists associated with the Helsinki
movement contribute expertise to our partnership with Mediterranean states now
Third and relating to that same point, the Helsinki process must continue to
champion citizen activism. Secretary Clinton last summer gave an important
speech in Krakow, Poland, talking about the environment in which NGOs – which
civil society are now being restricted by governments who are unhappy with
their actions. The OSCE, through its engagement of civil society, reinforces
our strategy of supporting citizen activism. In mid-August, my bureau will be
reviewing proposals for a new $500,000 program to create a demand-driven,
virtual network of human rights and democracy activists in the OSCE region.
We’re calling it Helsinki 2.0. This will help extend Helsinki’s human
dimension and the legacy of citizen involvement.
Last point is that I think it’s important for us to send a clear message to –
from Vilnius on Internet freedom. I appreciate the commission holding a
hearing on that subject several weeks ago. We applaud Lithuania for making
media freedom both via old and new technologies key themes of their
chairmanship, and we’re grateful for the tireless effort of the OSCE permanent
representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic.
As Ambassador Gordon and I have both noted in our written testimonies, the U.S.
government is committed to fundamental freedoms in the digital age, and the
Astana summit ended without adoption of a plan. We intend to renew our efforts
in the Vilnius ministerial.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I want to say that we are committed to a Europe
that is whole, free and at peace, Europe and Eurasia coming together in an
integrated way. And there can’t be lasting security in this region until human
rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully exercised by all of the people
within the OSCE region.
Again, I want to thank you for holding these hearings and for your own personal
commitment to these issues.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you for your testimony and thank for your
participation on the commission.
ALEXANDER VERSHBOW: Thank you, Senator Cardin. Thanks to you and to Chairman
Smith for inviting me to testify about the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe and our goals in the run-up to the Vilnius ministerial
meeting in December. And I’m very honored to associate myself with this
commission and its achievements over the decades. Like my colleagues, I have a
longer statement that I’d like to submit for the record.
SEN. CARDIN: And it will be.
MR. VERSHBOW: But I’ll just summarize some of the main points.
The OSCE has three attributes that make it unique. It has a vast geographic
scope; it has a three-basket approach to security, encompassing human rights,
economic development as well as military security that is still relevant today;
and it has an extraordinary legacy, having played a critical role both in
supporting and inspiring the forces of democracy and freedom behind the Iron
Curtain during the Cold War and then bringing order during Europe’s tumultuous
political transitions of the early 1990s.
Throughout its history, the OSCE has adapted to new challenges and changes in
the security environment. And in keeping with this tradition, it must continue
to adapt to face the challenges of the 21st century.
As we’ve heard, last December, the OSCE held its first summit in Astana – the
first summit since 1999. At the summit, we learned that the achievements of
the OSCE cannot be taken for granted. The effort to produce an action plan for
2011 foundered over fundamental disagreements on conventional arms control and
the unresolved conflicts.
Fortunately, due in no small part to the efforts of my friend Phil Gordon, the
member states did succeed in producing the Astana Commemorative Declaration
which recommitted all 56 participating states to the Helsinki principles and to
revitalizing the political-military dimension of European security.
And I’d like to focus on what the administration would like to accomplish in
this area by the time of the ministerial in December, with particular attention
to the three most important parts of the conventional arms control regime: The
1999 Vienna Document, the Open Skies Treaty and the CFE Treaty.
OSCE is engaged in an intensive effort to update the Vienna Document for the
first time since 1999. So far, the only changes that have been agreed are
administrative in nature.
One substantive proposal that we believe would be critical to making the update
a success is to lower the force thresholds for notification of military
maneuvers, a subject that’s central to the original intention of the Vienna
document. So far, only 35 of the 56 participating states have agreed to this
proposal, but we think it would better reflect – reduce force sizes in Europe
and it would send a clear signal that OSCE is serious about modernizing
military transparency and security in Europe even though this is not the only
updating that should be done either before or beyond Vilnius.
So we hope to have a deeper discussion with our OSCE partners on a range of
measures that would be necessary to improve the security of all participating
states. With military budgets under pressure, we think that the Vienna
Document must continue to evolve to keep pace with the transformations under
way across Europe’s militaries.
On Open Skies, the 34 states party to the treaty have flown more than 700
aerial observation flights since the treaty entered into force in 2002. The
ability of any party to overfly any part of the territory of every other party
is actually quite extraordinary. And, indeed, the United States and Russia
both used Open Skies to verify the New START treaty. We’re seeking to recommit
the United States to the treaty by increasing the number of flights in which we
participate each year and by upgrading our sensors to digital. While many
states are scaling back their participation due to budget cuts, we note that
Russia has renewed its commitment by purchasing new Open Skies aircraft, so we
look forward to the continued operation of this landmark treaty.
The news on conventional armed forces in Europe, the CFE Treaty, is less
encouraging. As you know, the CFE impasse began with Russia’s December 2007
suspension of its compliance with the treaty. Our efforts, led by Ambassador
Victoria Nuland, to conclude a framework agreement as the starting point of
negotiations to modernize the treaty have foundered on two main issues: the
right of states to choose whether or not to allow foreign forces to be
stationed on their sovereign territory, and providing transparency among all
parties regarding their current military posture.
Currently, the United States is consulting with the other parties to decide the
way forward while continuing to encourage Moscow to reconsider its position.
But as NATO said at the Lisbon summit last November, this situation in which 29
parties implement the treaty while one does not cannot continue indefinitely.
While the future of CFE remains uncertain, we remain committed to conventional
arms control and military transparency in Europe. And while the CFE treaty
can’t be replaced, we’ll continue to work through the OSCE to advance these
objectives by modernizing the Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty.
We also seek to use the leverage of OSCE’s diverse membership in trying to
address the unresolved conflicts. And we hope through cooperative efforts to
Sadly, we’ve seen little sign of progress on resolving the conflict between
Georgia and Russia. Talks do continue in Vienna and in Geneva on the
possibility of an OSCE team that could have access to all of the territory of
Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, but Russia has yet to
Our position remains unchanged. The United States continues to support
Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally
recognized borders, and we will maintain our support for international efforts
to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Russia needs to abide by its ceasefire arrangements and take steps that promote
stability in the region.
The OSCE continues to play an important role in supporting a peaceful
resolution of the dispute over Transdniestria through the “five plus two”
talks, and the United States remains closely engaged with our OSCE Minsk Group
co-chairs, Russia and France, in supporting efforts to promote a peaceful
settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Unfortunately, an attempt last month to reach a breakthrough failed and
tensions along the line of contact are increasing. But with the parties’
inability to finalize the Madrid basic principles to resolve the conflict, we
remain at a dangerous stalemate, and prospects for progress remain uncertain.
Now, the OSCE is also a forerunner among regional organizations in addressing
emerging threats, such as preventing nuclear proliferation to nonstate actors,
the control of small arms and light weapons, the promotion of cybersecurity and
enhancing border security in Central Asia.
On nonproliferation, OSCE continues to work towards full implementation of U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1540. OSCE is setting norms for its members on
nuclear nonproliferation by hosting specialized workshops and specialized tools
OSCE is a vital forum for cooperation on reducing the threat posed by small
arms and light weapons. It’s facilitated cooperation among participating
states in reducing trafficking, securing existing stocks and eliminating excess
small arms and light weapons and related materials since 1999. In March and
July of this year, DOD participated in OSCE-led visits to Kyrgyzstan, and we’re
now working to ensure that that country’s man-portable air-defense systems, or
MANPADS – and we’re also coordinating OSCE efforts to secure and destroy large
stockpiles of hazardous conventional ammunition.
On cybersecurity, OSCE hosted an important conference to explore potential
roles for the organization, which included not only participating states,
partners and international organizations but the European Commission, Japan and
NATO. In the run-up to the Vilnius ministerial, the Pentagon will continue to
support State Department-led discussions on developing cyber
confidence-building mechanisms in the OSCE to protect our vital interests.
We also have been working through OSCE to promote a stable, secure and
prosperous Central Asia by improving border security and working to combat
illegal drug trafficking and other forms of proliferation across the region.
We believe OSCE can do more in Afghanistan. The secretariat has proposed 16
projects to enhance Afghan border security with an emphasis on building Afghan
capacity. These are supportive of the Afghanistan government’s national
development strategy. So far, only a few have been implemented and we would
like to see more progress between now and Vilnius on these very important
So, to conclude, Senator, in 1970, it was unlikely that NATO and the Warsaw
Pact would hand each other their order of battle, publish advance warning of
and invite observers to their large military exercises, conduct thousands of
intrusive inspections and fly hundreds of uncontested reconnaissance sorties
over each other’s territories. But now, we take these measures for granted.
The OSCE, aided by this commission, remains an important tool to prevent future
conflicts, to resolve the remaining conflicts in Eurasia, to address new
threats as they emerge. We hope to be a bit further along by this year in
projecting the peace and security of OSCE to other areas of instability, but
clearly much more work remains to be done.
I hope that by the time of the Vilnius meeting in December, the Astana summit
will, ultimately, be seen as a turning point in reinvigorating OSCE’s security
dimension and moving it boldly into the 21st century.
Thank you very much.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you for that comprehensive presentation. I thank all
three of you.
It’s clear to me that if the Vilnius ministerial is going to be successful,
it’s going to require a great deal of preparation work by the United States.
We saw a year ago with the Astana preparations – were not up to what we wanted
it to be, and I agree with the observations; Secretary Gordon, but for your
work and the U.S. work, I think that would’ve been a difficult time. I think
we pulled out at the end some important work that was done in Astana. And I
really do applaud the U.S. for your leadership there.
We can’t chance that again. I think we need better preparation moving in to
the ministerial. Of course, this is not a summit, so the expectations are
nowhere near as high, but it still, I think, requires us – it’s a once a year
opportunity. And I listen to your testimony, and I think you do have the
framework for some very important progress being made following up on Astana
and Vilnius. And I just encourage you to work with our commission here so that
we can try to reinforce what you’re doing with the work of our – of our
I want to just follow up, if I might, on the point that – Secretary Vershbow,
that you pointed out: the strength of the OSCE, its geographical scope, the
fact that it has the three baskets that are interwoven together, and its
legacy. And we can all point with pride a lot of what has been done as a
result of the OSCE.
On the geographical side, since its inception, of course, the United States and
Russia were equal partners in an organization in Europe which gave it a unique
opportunity for the relationship between the United States and Russia. The
breakup of the Soviet Union, of course, now gives us opportunities in Central
Asia that we did not have before, and that’s still unclear as to how we’re
going to be using that opportunity to advance Central Asia.
And now, there is an interest in expanding the OSCE in the Mediterranean beyond
just our partner states, in using the framework – it was Max Kampelman who
originally suggested that we create a separate OSCE for the Mediterranean.
Later, he said, well, it would take too long to do that; why don’t we just try
to expand the Middle East into OSCE? And we’ve been doing that. We’ve been
doing that through the partnership status.
There is some talk within the parliamentary assembly to try to give the
Mediterranean partners higher standing. I would be interested in the U.S.
pursuing additional partner states in the Middle East as well as increased
participation in the OSCE for the partner states.
So I guess if you could – and I would like to hear all three of you – first,
how you see us using the OSCE as it relates to Russia, which I think is a real
challenge. We have some of the real experts here on Russia, so what should we
be looking to as far as the future of the OSCE as it relates to Russia?
Central Asia, sort of – (inaudible) – can we expect a greater role? And how
about the Mediterranean dimension?
MR. GORDON: Senator, I’d be happy to begin and pick up on a couple of those.
I’m sure my colleagues will follow up.
First, if I might – and thank you for your kind words about our work on the
road to Astana – I would note that your comments about the difficulty of Astana
actually go hand in hand about – with your comments about the strength of OSCE,
the strength of the OSCE being that it works in all three dimensions, that
there are 56 participating states, its geography covers a broad swath of
issues; that gives it certain advantages, everybody’s involved and it’s
At the same time, it creates challenges in advancing the agenda that we saw in
Astana, and we have no illusions about – on the road to Vilnius and beyond. It
is just something that we have to live with. With a strong chairmanship in
Lithuania and our own work and the support of the commission, we hope to –
despite these sort of structural challenges – make real progress in Vilnius.
On the work in other areas, let me just start with the Mediterranean. We do
believe that there is a role for the OSCE and the Mediterranean, one that it is
indeed already playing. Even short of an OSCE for the Mediterranean, which, as
you suggest, may be a bridge too far in the short term, the OSCE is already
working with neighboring states in the Mediterranean. I think I mentioned in
my testimony the workshop on elections in Egypt that just took place in the
past couple of weeks. A number of OSCE members from Central Europe have had
workshops on democratic transitions, which is something also the OSCE can help
with. With years or even decades of experience of trying to support rule of
law, democracy, free market economies in the OSCE space, it can be useful to
those Mediterranean countries that are seeking that transition as well.
And I guess I would say a similar thing about Central Asia, where the OSCE is
already hard at work trying to do that – again, facing many challenges but
trying to bring the lessons of what it has learned in decades of democratic
support in Europe and Eurasia to Central Asia as well, and that will be another
theme in Vilnius.
Finally, on Russia: Once again, it’s a consensus organization. As Ambassador
Vershbow said, we have had significant differences with Russia on some of the
key issues we face, including in the area of arms control. But we can’t move
forward without Russia. And we are committed to working with the Russians as
we need to in trying to strengthen the organization and take advantage of one
of its most important voices in the full range of issues.
MR. POSNER: If I can just add a couple thoughts to that: I think, to share
Phil’s observation, clearly, in places like Tunisia, Egypt, hopefully in Libya,
there is going to be – there is a desire to engage with European partners and
European countries that have gone through political transformations moving
towards democracy. If the OSCE can be a forum for making that happen in a more
– an easier way, then we should be encouraging that.
And I think we’re going to see in the – I spend a lot of my time now trying to
deal with that region, and there is – you know, these are countries that have
had, in many – in many instances, 30 or 40 years without any functioning
political systems. And so it’s in our interest to facilitate that kind of
exchange and engagement, not so much to impose our thoughts of what’s
important, but try to have a real discussion among states that have been
through a similar transformation.
I think the Central Asian piece, from a human rights perspective, is in some
respects the most important. Those five Central Asian states don’t have a
Council of Europe or a – certainly not a European Union. And they’re very –
they’re tough states. On human rights terms, we have a range of challenges.
But I think the OSCE, however fragile the architecture and however difficult, I
think is a platform. And it’s an especially important platform for the civil
society in those states who feel so marginalized by their own political
systems. So I think even though we continue to struggle over how to keep this
as part of the mix, it’s critically important in whatever we do that this be a
piece of what we regard as a priority.
And finally, again, to share Phil’s reflections on Russia, we have our own
challenges in dealing with the Russians on a bilateral basis for human rights.
But it’s part of the reset, it’s part of our policy. We’ll continue to engage.
We understand that these are issues in which we often don’t agree, but that
doesn’t mean we don’t have the conversation. And it spills over to the OSCE,
where often the Russians are at loggerheads with us about how far the OSCE
should go. It’s critical we keep ODIHR as a functioning, strong entity. It’s
critical that we keep doing the election monitoring. It’s critical that the
human dimension piece be strong and we keep that agenda where it needs to be.
So we’ve got our work cut out for us. But I think we’re pretty clear about
what we need to do.
MR. VERSHBOW: I thank you, Senator, for posing some very good – interesting
questions, challenging ones because, it’s ironic, in the case of Russia that
OSCE itself was something that evolved from a Russian or Soviet initiate –
Brezhnev’s European Security Conference proposals. Yet now Russia seems less
enthusiastic about the full three-basket structure and process that is at the
heart of the OSCE.
Clearly there’s a lot to be done on some of the issues I discussed in my
statement in the area of conventional arms control. And I think the Russians
still are keenly interested in that, even if we are having serious difficulties
in the case of the CFE Agreement and finding a framework that respects the key
principles of host nation consent and transparency that I mentioned. But
hopefully the Russians will ultimately see that a world without any CFE
Agreement, without the predictability and transparency that comes with
negotiated arms control, will be a much more unreliable basis on which to build
European security in the future.
But we do face a bigger challenge in getting all three baskets back into the
category of areas where the Russians are actively cooperating with us in the
OSCE framework, and indeed, in other areas as well. Mike’s addressed the human
rights issues, I think in the area of conflict prevention and crisis management
we’ve been trying for the last few years to strengthen OSCE’s ability to act
proactively and at the early stages of conflict. But there too we’ve
encountered Russian resistance to giving more authority to the chairman in
office to take the initiative to send a fact-finding mission to an emerging
area of conflict. But this ultimately should be in Russia’s interest. We all
will save a lot in terms of potential for bloodshed and expenditure of our
treasure if we can nip conflicts in the bud through political means. And
that’s where OSCE has great strengths that should be built upon.
I see tremendous potential in Central Asia to focus on some of the
transnational issues as well as the human rights issues, since those countries
do indeed not have as many other institutional frameworks to which they can
turn. And I think there too with – whether you’re looking at drug trafficking,
terrorism, organized crime – regional approaches that could be facilitated by
OSCE would be tremendous contributors to Russia’s security and to everyone
On the Mediterranean countries, I agree with my colleagues that the experience
of the transition of the post-Cold War period is certainly something that OSCE
could help in sharing with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
There may be mechanisms that could be transposed from the European framework to
the Mediterranean framework and in the security area as well, helping countries
in transition develop civilian control of the military – civil-military
relations. And hereto there may be an increased role for NATO which has had a
Mediterranean dialogue, which has largely been a consultative forum, but may
now have some operational role in the spirit of the Partnership for Peace –
what the Partnership for Peace did in Central and Eastern Europe and in the
Balkans in the post-Cold War period.
So it’s an organization with tremendous potential and we hope we can begin to
realize more of that at Vilnius and beyond. And I agree with you on your
points about closer preparation, and we will certainly want to coordinate
closely with the commission as we go forward.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, I appreciate that.
Secretary Posner, as you were talking about Russia and progress made in human
rights and that we can deal with that and deal with other issues at the same it
reminded me of my first involvement with the Helsinki Commission dealing with
Soviet Jews many years ago. And at that time, the logic of naming names was
being challenged internationally. And naming names, I think, was perhaps the
most effective way that the commission was able to advance basic rights by
putting a face on the issue.
And I think most recently – and you mentioned the Sergei Magnitsky case, I
think that also galvanized international attention. And although Russia may
not like the fact that we have brought this on a personal level, it does bring
it home that they have failed to live up to commitments under the OSCE. So I
would just encourage us to continue to be – to do that. I know there’s a lot
of pressure not to embarrass countries because of individual cases, but to me
that’s the only way – most effective way, not the only way – the most effective
way that we’re going to be able to make progress towards compliance with the
principles of OSCE.
One last question I have, which – it’s a process question, and that is: The
OSCE – the CSCE is 36 years old. When it was first developed, there was the
Soviet Union, we didn’t have – didn’t have a parliamentary assembly, Vienna was
not what it is today. We’re seeing things that are happening; the consensus
process is being challenged, transparency is clearly a problem within OSCE,
there’s mixed signals we’re getting from many capitals around the OSCE region
as to how much support their giving in Vienna. How does the United States
interject itself into reforms within the OSCE?
We have direct interest in the parliamentary assembly. It’s played a critical
role in election monitoring, one of the principle services provided by the
OSCE. There’s always – there’s been friction between ODIHR and the
parliamentary assembly. We had the secretary general of the parliamentary
assembly – who happens to be with us today, Spencer Oliver – who was here in
Congress when the original Helsinki Act was passed and has a lot of
institutional knowledge of what needs to be done.
I guess, as I saw the results in Astana, I realized that but for the United
States we would not have been able to achieve what we did. It seems to me that
reform within OSCE will not take place unless the United States is in the
leadership. And how do we develop that? How does the United States put these
issues up? I say that fully supportive of the importance of the OSCE today
with all of its problems. But it could be much more effective, I think we all
agree. How do we go about exercising that leadership in the United States?
MR. GORDON: And, again, I’m happy to start. And I’ll start by saying, you
know, we share your premise, especially those of us who try to work with the
organization on a regular basis. It is clear that it is suffering from the
consensus principle and a lack of political will among countries to allow it to
function as efficiently as it needs to. So how do we deal with that and how
have we been trying to do it?
First of all, as you say, through our own U.S. leadership and vigorous action.
Secretary Clinton herself is personally invested in this. That’s why she went
to Astana; that’s why she has focused on this whole set of issues. The
organization has a new secretary-general and we will give him our full support
– a very competent, Italian – an experienced Italian diplomat. You mentioned
the parliamentary assembly which we will also support. This commission, and
through our own efforts, we have tried to find ways to make the organization
more efficient by allowing it to act, in some cases, when there isn’t a
And I think we mentioned using the – what’s called the Moscow Mechanism in
Belarus. Obviously, when we wanted to follow-up on the very flawed elections
and the use of violence by the regime that followed those elections last
December, if the OSCE had to wait for every member to agree – that is to say
including Belarus – it couldn’t have played a role. So we invoked and
supported the use of this Moscow Mechanism where a smaller number of OSCE
countries can send an observer-investigator into a member state. And
naturally, there was resistance to that in some quarters. But we actually
managed to do it, and I might add including – with Russian support.
So there are ways to use the organization. It’s not easy, but those types of
mechanisms can make it more efficient. We tried to suggest a similar reform
when it comes to crisis response. At present, because of the consensus rule,
the OSCE is just too slow. If violence breaks out in a participating state and
most of us think it would be useful to have the OSCE send someone, it is
necessary to get support of all of them, and lo and behold it’s not surprising
that maybe the state that is using force doesn’t want it to happen.
And we have tried to suggest that it would be more effective to have a crisis
response mechanism that didn’t rely on consensus, whether it’s minus one or
minus two or minus three. But that is one of the issues we have not reached
consensus on, including from Russia which is reluctant to allow for that
capacity. We still support it; we still think it would be a good idea to
prevent a single country from blocking the organization as a whole to have a
crisis response action. So that’s unfortunate, and we will continue to try to
lobby for that change.
And then lastly I would just say that – to remind us all that even when the
organization at 56 in Vienna is stymied by a lack of consensus, we shouldn’t
overlook the importance of the sub-organizations of the OSCE, including ODHIR,
including the High Representative for Freedom of the Media, including the High
Commissioner for National Minorities. These organizations are effective,
sometimes quietly. So, you know, I just remind us all that even as we get
frustrated sometimes maybe by an inability to get the entire organization to
work, that is not – that doesn’t take anything away from the effectiveness of
some of these subgroups.
MR. VERSHBOW: Thank you, Senator. And thanks, Phil. Phil has covered some
points that I would have made. I think the bottom line is you’re right, that
the American leadership is going to be critical to not only keeping the
organization effective in what it’s doing now, but getting it to engage in new
areas where I think it can fill a void in the overall security architecture of
Europe and Eurasia. So we have to very persistent in our diplomacy, patient
but not too patient. I think we have to recognize that if the institution
doesn’t overcome what is, I think fair to call, a crisis of confidence on the
part of some of its members in the institution itself, then it will be
relegated to a second-tier status.
So I think that we have to continue to work very hard to persuade the countries
that have become more skeptical about OSCE that it really is an asset that they
could use to deal with their own security problems and help them in dealing
with threats on their doorstep, preventing conflicts from emerging; that it’s
not a burden, it’s a relatively affordable institution in terms of what we
spend on it, but it can deliver significant results. But clearly some
countries still see OSCE as a threat. And we have to overcome that attitude.
We certainly, from the DOD point of view, try to talk up OSCE in our defense
dialogues with the countries in Europe and Eurasia. We certainly took a
proactive role in the effort to revitalize the CFE Treaty. And while it has
not yet borne fruit, we’re still committed to try to shape an approach that can
respect the principles that are important to all the member states but get that
negotiating process back on track and bring the agreement up to date in light
of new geopolitical realities.
So, again, persistence in our diplomacy will be key, but clearly we have an
uphill climb ahead of us.
MR. POSNER: Just a couple words to add what both have said. Having attended
both the human dimension meeting in Warsaw and the summit in Astana last year,
it is clear to me how much the United States’ leadership is vital. And I think
it’s incumbent on us also to be redoubling our efforts to engage ever – at
every level the Western European allies that should be standing with us on all
of these issues. They’re there, but they wait sometimes for us to lead. And
for this organization to succeed, we have to have a critical mass of countries
that are all working at full speed in the way that we do as a delegation. I’m
very proud to be part of this government because I see how much time and energy
we put into these issues.
Second thing, I think it is important that we change the dynamic in a different
way, which is that we’ve got to move to create allies, for example, in the
Central Asian area. It’s one of the reasons I mentioned Kyrgyzstan twice – I’m
going to mention in now a third time. It represents a potential change in the
atmosphere and the environment of all of these – of this organization if we can
reinforce the best instincts of an emerging democracy in Central Asia, which
Kyrgyzstan could be – we’re not there yet – but it would be a – it would
suggest that we have an ally in a different place where we could begin to
build, I think, some new dynamic changes.
The third thing, just following on what Phil said, I’m very high on the work on
the high representative on the media. I think she’s done an outstanding job.
I also think the three tolerance representatives – Andy Baker in particular,
who’s focused on anti-Semitism – below the radar in some ways, but taking on
very tough issues, doing real factual fact gathering, and building a kind of
momentum on very tough issues that are particularly important now in Europe.
And so that agenda, the tolerance agenda, to me is a critically important one.
We’ve got to, again, pay attention and make sure that the resources and the
political support is behind that.
Last point, Senator, in relation to your comment on Magnitsky, I think it’s
really important for us also to be taking on the tough cases, to make that part
of the routine. Sometimes we do it privately, and when we can succeed that’s
the best. But as you’ve done in the Magnitsky case, you’ve raised the profile,
you’ve caused us to, you know, redouble our efforts. We were every engaged,
but we’re now engaged some more. And we’ve certainly seen the reaction on the
Russian side is that you’ve gotten their attention. And I think that’s a good
SEN. CARDIN: Well, I thank you all for your observations there. I was going
to make an observation that the parliamentary assembly – parliamentarians can
really help you bring about the kind of consensus you need, but I didn’t think
this was good day for me to mention that, considering where we are in Congress.
But I do think that the political involvement of the parliamentary assembly
As you mentioned, and I think rightly so, that the institutions within OSCE had
a great deal of strength. Even though we need consensus for overall action, we
have the institutions that are now well established. I might point out that in
almost every one of those cases it was the leadership of the United States that
either initiated or funded their operations. There was a lot of extra budgetal
– budgetary support that the United States was behind to support the human
rights capacity of OSCE. And of course the tolerance was the U.S. initiative.
So it – I guess what I would encourage us all to do – as we look towards the
future, how do we transform OSCE to continue to be relevant to meet the current
needs? And that’s why I look at look at expanding its geographical side. I
look at some of the steps that we could take to integrate a better relationship
between the parliamentary assembly and the Permanent Council and the – what
happens in Vienna. Those issues, I think, are election monitoring, which is
one of our signature issues, and to make sure that we continue to have the type
of support to be able to carry out those important functions. I think all that
would be important for us to continue.
Just one positive note before we call the second panel. Our annual meeting was
in Belgrade, and we look in the Balkans today, and I think – although there’s
still many challenges, Kosovo and Bosnia are still very much at risk – but
clearly the progress that’s been made in the Balkans reflect not just the work
of the OSCE but the leadership of the United States. And I couldn’t tell you
how proud we were to see the progress that was made in Serbia.
I mean, Serbia was one of my principle countries of interest just a few years
ago for its failure to meet OSCE commitments. And now it’s clearly on the path
for – moving towards EU. And that’s, I think, a credit to the support of the
United States and the support of the OSCE through the process. So I think
there’s been a lot of successes that we can point to, but we still have
challenges that we have to meet.
And with that thank you all very much. And we’ll move to the second panel.
And, again, I apologize for the delay. Just for the record, there may be –
tell our first panel there may be questions that we’ll be submitting for the
record. We would if you would get them back to us in a timely way.
The second panel will consist of Dr. Mike Haltzel, senior fellow at the Center
for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced
International Studies and a senior adviser at the international consulting firm
of McLarty Associates. We also have Cathy Fitzpatrick, a consultant to the
human rights organization, a frequent contributor to online publications at
Eurasia and about the OSCE, and also a Russian translator. She has testified
for our commission several times, and has served as a public member of the U.S.
delegation to OSCE human dimensions in 1991, 2004 and 2010.
MR.: Senator, I just wanted to say hi.
MR.: Michael –
MR.: Nice to see you.
MR.: Nice – thanks for being here.
SEN. CARDIN: And I appreciate the patience of both of you for – obviously
we’re a little bit delayed. And we will try to move this on. We will keep the
record open for questions from members of the commission. We would ask our
witnesses if questions are asked to try to respond to them as promptly as
Dr. Haltzel, I’d be glad to start with you.
MICHAEL HALTZEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s – I would ask, first of all,
that the full text of my written remarks be entered into the record.
SEN. CARDIN: That’s be true for both witnesses, your full testimony will be
included in the record, and you may proceed as you wish.
MR. HALTZEL: Thank you. It’s an honor and a pleasure to participate in
today’s hearing. I’d like to take this opportunity to commend you and
Congressman Smith for your energetic leadership of the Helsinki Commission. In
a policy world where coping with daily crisis makes it easy not to see the
forest for the trees, the Helsinki Commission stands out for its ability to
examine both current problems and their deeper causes.
I would also mention the, quote-unquote, “foot soldiers” of our OSCE policy.
During the past two years I’ve had the honor of being the head of three U.S.
delegations to OSCE conferences. The 2009 H-Dem (ph) in Warsaw, 2010
Copenhagen 20th Anniversary Conference, and the 2010 Vienna Review Conference.
I can honestly say, Senator, I’ve never encountered a more expert, hard-working
and effective group of public servants than the members of those three – those
three delegations and the officials backing them up here in Washington, D.C.
Several of them are here in the room today. I think American people are being
extraordinarily well served by, and should be proud of, these U.S. federal
Mr. Chairman, a lot of the territory was covered eloquently by the three
assistant secretaries on the first panel. I will attempt to give a somewhat
more general summary of an outsider who on occasion has been part of the OSCE
process. When one views the Helsinki process over the nearly four decades of
its existence one must, I believe, judge it to have been a resounding success.
The old CSCE played a significant role in hasting the demise of communism in
Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia; and the territory of the OSCE today is
unquestionably in much better shape than it was when the founders began their
deliberations in the Finnish capital in the early 1970s.
That’s the relatively good news. The bad news – and I think we’ve heard it,
again, in the first panel and from you also, Senator – is that since its –
arguable its high point in 1990 at the Copenhagen conference on the human
dimension, where actually I was a public member, the organization has, in many
respects, been a disappointment. To be sure, it faces formidable challenges.
We’ve talked about Uzbekistan, in Andijan the massacre in 2005; Kyrgyzstan,
which as a new democratic government and there is some hope, nonetheless had a
violent, repressive leader who fled last year. We know about the insurgency
spreading in Russia’s largely Muslim North Caucasus where Moscow has farmed out
control of Chechnya to a brutal warlord.
These and other abuses, again, were outlined by the first panel and by Chairman
Smith. Russia’s military continues illegally to occupy parts of Georgia and
Moldova, talks on the protracted conflicts seems stalled.
What has the OSCE been able to do to remedy these problems? Unfortunately, I
don’t think enough. Last December’s first-in-a-decade OSCE summit undoubtedly
accomplished a formal reaffirmation of the organization’s lofty principles. We
deserve credit for leadership there, Phil Gordon especially.
In a healthy organization, however, I submit that this reaffirmation would have
been considered unnecessary. And we, as you know, did plan for an action plan.
My final statement at Vienna, we outlined nine areas where the United States
felt progress had to be made or we could not agree to an action plan. I’m glad
we stuck to our principles because it would have been incomplete otherwise.
The consensus rule we’ve talked about has become an increasing burden.
Nondemocratic members, Russia above all, continually stymie organizational
progress. We’ve talked about American crisis response proposals that have been
blocked: preventive action in North Caucasus, aid in Afghanistan.
The lack of an enforcement mechanism is also a fundamental weakness of the
OSCE. At the Copenhagen conference last June, where several other people on
the staff were also present as members of the delegation, we had a remarkably
free and open discussion in the last session. And all of the – all of the
countries basically said that the lack of an enforcement mechanism is a serious
The public naming and shaming of human rights violators at the HDIM drives
nondemocratic participating states up the wall. That’s fine, and occasionally,
it does improve the conditions of imprisoned civil rights advocates. It rarely
alters general governmental behavior. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue
trying; we should.
As several people have said, in the face of constant stonewalling, some
segments of the OSCE do manage to carry out their mandates with distinction. I
would cite especially Dunja Mijatovic, the representative on freedom of the
media, ODIHR, of course; Knut Vollebaek, the OSCE high commissioner on national
minorities; the Parliamentary Assembly; and last but not least, the valuable
field missions and training programs of the organization.
I won’t repeat what Secretary Vershbow had to say about the arms control
mandate. It’s abundantly clear that Moscow’s refusal to accept the host nation
consent principle and transparency is a – is a real disappointment. I
certainly hope that the update of the Vienna Document at the December Vilnius
ministerial will succeed.
So finally, we have an organization whose effectiveness varies widely. As a
norm setter, the OSCE has few, if any equals. Its specialized agencies and
field mission remain valuable international players. But in enforcing its
democratic and human rights principles and its arms control efforts, the OSCE
has proved to be a disappointment. So what should we do?
Mr. Chairman, frustrating though it may be to some, I would argue for more, not
less commitment to the organization. U.S. leadership, as we’ve all heard, is
absolutely essential. We should redouble our commitment both in personnel and
in behavior. We have excellent people at our permanent mission in Vienna and a
We should continue to introduce constructive initiatives such as more effective
crisis response mechanisms, which had been vetoed until now; updating the
Vienna document, as I said; Internet freedom; greater economic transparency;
more gender equality. Many of these may be vetoed, but nonetheless I think
demonstrating that the U.S. is a good international citizen and a leader at the
OSCE has intrinsic value that should not be underestimated.
At the HDIM, in that same vein, we should always be candid about our own
national shortcomings. We should publicly own up to our deficiencies, as we
have done, but then we should explain the measures that we’re taking to try to
rectify them. This increases our credibility within the organization,
especially among the European participating states.
I think the United States should always be the foremost champion of NGOs and
their right to participate in OSCE conferences, and, whenever possible, even in
permanent council meetings.
In the negotiations over all manner of OSCE documents, from routine
announcements to treaties, we should be second to none as paragraph experts,
even if people consider us nitpickers.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we should never “go along to get along.” On the vast
majority of issues confronting the OSCE, we are in agreement with our European
friends and allies. Occasionally, however, if they are willing, allegedly,
quote, unquote, for the good of the organization, to acquiesce in resolutions
or draft agreements that we feel would jeopardize our national interest or
compromise the principles of the OSCE, we must resist group pressure to provide
consensus. No matter how much eye-rolling it may occasion, our being a
minority of one in such rare cases is not only ethically sound, but also
organizationally the most supportive position for the OSCE.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I thank you again for the
opportunity to offer my views. I look forward to attempting to answer any of
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you again for your testimony. Ms. Fitzpatrick?
CATHERINE FITZPATRICK: Thank you, Senator, especially for treating the OSCE as
the indispensable organization.
What I would like to do today in my testimony is to focus on the excellent
recommendations that have already been made by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
in the Belgrade Declaration. But it needs some focus, as it’s a very long
OSCE should concentrate on developing a more effective capacity to react
diplomatically to crisis with particular attention to strengthening human
rights investigation capacity and high-level public statements on crises.
There is a very frayed political consensus now, and the OSCE faces not only its
longstanding set of frozen, and, in some places, thawing conflicts, but new
challenges as we’ve seen this last year: the pogroms in Kyrgyrstan, the brutal
crackdown in Belarus, the regression on press freedom by Kazakhstan even as it
was chairing the organization, and, of course, the appalling terrorist attacks
in Russia, Belarus and now, tragically, Norway.
We never expected these kind of tragedies when we saw the Berlin Wall fall when
the Soviet Union dismantled. And it seems as if our Helsinki ideals have not
come to pass. The organization has not been able to predict or respond to
these kinds of incidents effectively.
So to that end, we must increase the complementarity, integration and
effectiveness of the various offices. We should work at the ministerial level
on a consensus-minus-one basis to have a standby rapid reaction diplomatic
mission. We should strengthen the ability of ODIHR, the high commissioner for
nationalities, the various special representatives and the parliamentary
assembly to mount fact-finding missions as an integral part of their function.
We should also enable the OSCE’s secretary-general and other OSCE leaders to
speak out more in condemnation of human rights violations, and not just leave
it to the – to the rapporteurs.
All the deployed missions should have a human rights component, and they should
report more publicly than they do. All the – all the various institutions of
OSCE should report to the Permanent Council more, and that body should become
more transparent. I would advocate creating an OSCE mandate for freedom of
association with particular focus on human rights defenders; this was done
successfully by the U.S. at the U.N. Human Rights Council, and that could be
replicated. And we should ensure that groups that incite hatred or violence or
that call for the destruction for any state or for the destruction of anyone’s
rights do not receive government support.
So the fact finding, which used to be at the heart of Helsinki experience with
the citizens’ movements, it seems to everywhere have been substituted with
technical assistance and training seminars. And that’s a strategy that evolved
to cope with the refusal of some states to admit observers and accept criticism
of their record.
Through extraordinary efforts, the Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen was able
to mount a prestigious fact-finding panel in Kyrgyzstan, as you know. Its
findings represent an important validation of the fact that while 75 percent of
the victims were ethnic Uzbeks, nearly a hundred percent of those tried for the
violence are also ethnic Uzbeks. And this disparity represents a grave
injustice. Although he was invited to investigate the June pogroms by
President Roza Otunbayeva, Kiljunen was subsequently denounced by the Kyrgyz
parliament and declared persona non grata. So the OSCE PA has followed up with
this. There’s been hearings with NGOs and so on, but more is required. The
Lithuanian chair-in-office should immediately appoint a special envoy on
Central Asia to continue to press for implementation of the commission’s
recommendations. And there is a precedent for such – for such an envoy.
As good as it was, this commission exposed significant weaknesses in OSCE: the
lack of a well-functioning permanent institution staffed with regional experts
and lawyers to perform fact-finding missions in rapid and thorough fashion.
Throughout OSCE’s history, the function of fact-finding has been performed by
different offices in different ways at different times: Sometimes it’s ODIHR
with a very good report on Kosovo and Chechnya in the past and on Andijan;
sometimes it’s the high commissioner for nationalities; sometimes it’s the
Parliamentary Assembly. So this is where this needs to be coordinated and
This process of fact finding should be shielded from political processes. And
to that end, the various bodies, such as ODIHR and Parliamentary Assembly,
should coordinate better and institutionalize their fact finding and interact
with the Vienna Conflict Prevention Centre and the Permanent Council.
The right to know and act upon one’s rights, which was the inspiration for the
founding of the Helsinki citizens’ movement, is still not a reality, even 35
Regrettably, work on behalf NGO legalization has devolved into a very tedious
and expensive exercise in technical assistance to two states for drafting laws
and civic association parties. But for some governments, that turns into an
opportunity to exhibit their duplicity and procrastination. So I would rather
see – instead of this focus on drafting laws, I would like the OSCE to have a
special mandate to focus on the civic organizations that already exist and
their actual problems and to intervene with states on their behalf,
particularly for the – for human rights monitors.
And even as we want to promote civil society, we also have to be mindful of
groups that incite imminent violence, and that speaks to the role of the
tolerance mandates and so on to report more effectively.
The Permanent Council could indeed become more open and transparent. While
some officials do brief these meetings, the head of ODIHR, the tolerance
rapporteurs, the mission heads – they’re an invaluable resource – they should
all be coming to the Permanent Council and reporting more.
As for the call for public meetings at the Permanent Council – well, we have
seen at the U.N. Security Council that, regrettably, when you have open
meetings, than can lead to more public posturing and canned speeches, and it
drives the real work then even further behind the scenes. So what I feel is
more operative is that, even if the sausage-making of diplomacy is hidden from
us, we should see the product of it more often. So that means more consensus
text from the chair, more negotiated resolutions, more reporting. The U.S., of
course, has set a good example already by publishing their speeches to the
Permanent Council; few others, if any, do.
As for briefing by NGOs, there was a call in the Belgrade Declaration to make
this as often as once a week. I fear that would only lead to some special
interests posturing again and also only those wealthy organizations that can
afford to stay in Vienna would be able to report. So I would like to see other
ways of just incorporating the NGO information better and also arranging
Work on the charter status for OSCE should be delayed. An organization that
has had two missions expelled or suspended – in Belarus and Georgia – and has
had grave situations where OSCE monitors or police advisers could not be
deployed in a timely fashion or were expelled, as we saw in Belarus, Georgia,
Kyrgyzstan – that’s not an organization that should be drafting a charter until
a basic consensus on both the nature and the remedies for these situations is
reached. We all lament the absence of (teeth ?) for the many good findings and
recommendations of OSCE.
A debate on membership or expulsion criteria will likely be futile. We could
try to agree that no state seriously violating Helsinki principles should be
allowed to chair the organization, and yet that is also a process we find we’re
not able to start – to question.
But what we can do is create benchmarks that are very clear for what we expect
of the chair; for example, Ukraine coming in and articulate those forcefully
well in advance, and to protect those groups inside the country that continue
to expose the violations by that – by the state that is serving as chair.
So there’s little that we can do sometimes, but when all else fails, we can
refuse to validate a state’s behavior. And that’s when – when we look at some
of the challenges coming up – for example, the Russian elections – I think it’s
very important not to reopen the process of evaluating criteria for monitoring;
we should leave that as is and hopefully make the same kind of credible
statement about these elections that ODIHR and others have made in the past.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank both of you for your – for your – for your testimony.
You’ve given us a lot of really good ideas on the type of reform. I put at
the top of the list consensus minus one, particularly as it relates to
administrative decisions. We can move faster in that. Transparency, to me, is
a huge issue within OSCE. The development of the structure in Vienna, which
seems to be, in many cases, independent of the – of the member state capitals,
and how we get greater response in Vienna – quicker response and be able to
work more effectively to deal with current issues – I think all of that’s
I want to ask one question, and we may have some additional questions for the
record. And this is one that I don’t think has been given a lot of thought as
to whether this is the best way to move forward within OSCE. And that is the
I mean, some of your proposals are to give more authority to the
secretary-general or to allow the different institutions to be able to move
forward or to have greater accountability within the institutions directly to
the secretary-general. But it seems to me that so much depends upon the
chair-in-office within OSCE. And I must tell you, I’m not sure there’s a clear
path as to how the future chairmanships are going to be determined within OSCE.
There’s certainly a geographical discussion going on now. And I don’t know
what the answer is, but I am concerned about so much dependent upon which
country is the chair within OSCE and whether there isn’t a better way to
provide a direction than a yearly rotation of the chair from one of the member
MS. FITZPATRICK: Well, Senator, I would – I would keep the chair-in-office
because it’s – as with other multilateral organizations, you have the EU
changes every six months, you have the U.N. Security Council changes its
presidency every month. So changing once a year isn’t so terrible. And in any
multilateral organization, you’re going to – you’re in a dialogue with some
states that are not like-minded; sooner or later, if they’re members, they’re
going to rotate into the chair.
I think what – a lot of time was spent during Kazakhstan’s chair in trying to
explain precedents to them and bolstering precedents from good practices by
chairs, so that’s important.
SEN. CARDIN: I don’t – I don’t disagree with that. I’m really raising this,
not so much to suggest that there be a different – but how do you deal with
that? With Kazakhstan coming in as chair-in-office, it was so much attention
on the chair that it really, in some respect, detracted from the organization.
MS. FITZPATRICK: I agree that it did detract, and I think that’s where we have
to work at bolstering ODIHR and the capacity of other bodies to do fact
finding, because the chair – during the Kazakh chair, there was very poor
response on fact finding in crises.
But on the other hand, things like appointing – I mentioned appointing the
special envoy. That is within the power of the chair. There’s not a lot you
can undo, but they do have this discretionary power to appoint people, and then
– and how they the human dimension seminars, what the topics are. So there is
some scope there for making the chair effective.
MR. HALTZEL: I agree with you, Senator, it’s a real problem. Don’t forget we
were one of the last countries to agree to Kazakhstan’s chairmanship-in-office.
You know all about that. I believe the U.K. and the Czech Republic were the
other two. There were meetings in Madrid. They promised some things, several
of which they never delivered on.
I’m not enamored of the idea. And yes, the EU has a rotating presidency, but
they’ve whittled that way, way down as a result of their newest – I mean,
basically, the presidency of the EU means a whole lot less than it did before
the Lisbon Treaty. So I’m not sure that that’s much of a model.
Look, I think what we can do is, first of all, be very careful about who gets
into the – into the chairmanship. And then we can bolster them. As you well
know, we have been helping the Lithuanians. I think that’s extremely good.
Todd Becker, one of our experienced diplomats, I’m told, has been seconded
there for the year. And we can – and some of the smaller countries need that
sort of help. And in fact, I remember when Slovenia was chairman-in-office
several years ago; they sent people over here to talk to us to try to help
them. But beyond that, I don’t know. I have – I have the same sort of doubts
that you do.
If I could backtrack on just one thing very briefly – and that has to do with
the suspension idea – I had that in my written statement – but I feel that yes,
the Moscow mechanism is being used against Belarus right now, but we heard from
an earlier testimony that the Belarusians are managing to stonewall even within
the Moscow mechanism. It is not unheard of to suspend a country from the OSCE;
it was done in 1992 against Yugoslavia, then Serbia and Montenegro because of
the wars there. I think if one is talking about leverage, I think the United
States should carefully consider bringing up a resolution of suspension unless
Belarus cooperates fully with the Moscow mechanisms and changes some of its
SEN. CARDIN: Well, our delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly a couple of
years ago challenged Belarus, and we didn’t get very far. So it’s a tough
thing to actually accomplish. But I – your point is very well taken.
Let me ask you one final question as it relates to Russia. What do you think –
we know what Russia’s intentions were when the – when the CSCE was formed:
They wanted legitimacy in the international community, and they thought that
they could withstand the scrutiny. And now we’re not exactly sure what their
intentions are. Would you want to share with us what you think our best
strategy should be with Russia as it relates to the OSCE?
MR. HALTZEL: Senator, I think they have, to some extent, contradictory
strategies. Don’t forget, in 2008, President Medvedev gave a speech in Berlin
outlining his idea for a new European security architecture, which was brought
up within the OSCE and, I’m happy to say, has more or less died a peaceful
death. It would have clearly undermined NATO and it was – it should’ve been
and, I think, really was a nonstarter. I testified before the Permanent
Council on this in 2009.
I – my own feeling is that Russia would like HDIM to vanish from the face of
the earth. They would like to concentrate on the arms control areas to their
own advantage. And they don’t – they don’t really care very much about the
economic and environmental. I think their – I don’t think they want to see the
whole organization die. I think they’d be happy to see it just sort of dangle
in the wind.
What should we do about this? I think what we should do about it is what we
should do about the whole organization: redouble our commitment. Put them on
the spot. I mean, they had – they’ve – they had a perm rep in Vienna who was
the – (laughs) – I have to laugh – the most aggressive but skillful man
imaginable. I mean, and he would just bull straight ahead. There’s only one
way to deal with that, is – it’s just have more staying power than they do, be
completely open about the arguments they’re making being specious, be the last
delegation to leave a negotiation and show our European friends that we’re –
that we’re leaders and that we’re good international citizens and that we want
to be the leaders of the OSCE.
SEN. CARDIN (?): Good point.
MS. FITZPATRICK: Well, I think on the challenge of Russia, that it was
actually a very explicit plan of Russia to undermine OSCE’s human rights
components. From their letter some years ago, signed also by Kazakhstan and
others, I think they’ve worked very methodically at destroying budgets,
undermining the principles. So I think they have to be called on that.
And I think the elections presents profound opportunity, but also a challenge,
because they’ll be – ODIHR and others will be under enormous pressure to call
that as being valid. And we can already see with the crackdown on Live
Journal, with many problems in Russia, their (real ?) conditions don’t (obtain
?) for free and fair elections. So I think focusing on the election is very
And I also think that the Moscow mechanism has to mechanize in Moscow and
Belarus. We have to explicitly negotiate with Russia on Belarus. There’s one
school of thought that says, never raise Belarus with Russia, because that puts
it into their sphere of influence. But they’re the ones who bail out
Lukashenko. Their television is also very important. So I think any component
– you know, programming that we do should focus on Russian television. It’s no
Al-Jazeera for this region by any stretch, but it’s all we have as far as
reaching the whole region by satellite, so we should work more on getting on
Russian television to make known our views.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, let me thank both of you. I think your testimonies have
been very helpful to us as we try to chart the future leading up to the
ministerial in Vilnius, but more importantly, leading to the future of the OSCE.
With that, our hearing will stand adjourned. Thank you all very much.