Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe:
I am honored to be here to testify before you today about the performance and potential of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the fields of conflict prevention and resolution. The tragic events of September 11 have reminded all of us of how fragile our security is and of how interdependent we are in this world - security issues originating anywhere on this planet can have a direct impact on our daily lives. This is true of the OSCE region, where the new security threats emanating from non-state actors and terrorist networks have been manifest for some time, especially in the Caucasus and Central Asia and even within the Russian Federation, and where the events of last month will continue to resonate far into the future.
Since the end of the Cold War, a major focus of the OSCE has been on the prevention and resolution of local and regional conflicts to avert their escalation and global diffusion. Yet this important role that is performed routinely by the OSCE and its missions and field activities has gone largely unnoticed in governments and especially in the general public, not only in the United States but in much of Europe as well. We are all painfully aware of the failures of conflict prevention in the former communist regions of Southeastern Europe and Eurasia. Names like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Chechnya - previously known only to regional specialists - have become household words and appear in our media almost daily. Yet successful conflict prevention receives virtually no attention since, by definition, "nothing happens" - and we all know that "nothing" rarely makes the news or excites the attention of most policy-makers and public officials.
Therefore, when the "dogs don't bark" - when a potential conflict does not erupt into violence or when an old conflict remains dormant for many years - we may easily overlook the fact that this may be due to skillful and foresighted diplomatic initiatives taken outside of the view of the general public. In fact, I would submit that patient, but often overlooked preventive diplomacy by OSCE missions and field operations has often made a significant contribution to the avoidance of violence in a number of potentially dangerous situations in the OSCE region, and that other conflicts have been moderated or prevented from escalating further due to the rapid, but often unseen work of these OSCE officials.
If I may draw an analogy with the field of medicine, the principle that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" has long been accepted by our colleagues in the health field. The United States government and private sources devote billions of dollars every year to research on preventive medicine, because we know that the best way to deal with the most deadly killers of our population such as cancer and heart disease is by preventing their occurrence in the first place. Unfortunately, this simple truism has not yet been widely implemented in the field of foreign policy. To cite one obvious example, in the current fiscal year the US assessment for all activities of the OSCE amounts to about $20 million. Yet we are spending more than that amount every two days to support the US military commitment to SFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina and KFOR in Kosovo. In this instance, an ounce of prevention is equivalent to more than "ten pounds of cure."
Imagine how much we might have saved if we had only devoted more resources, attention, and effort to conflict prevention before the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo exploded into violence! Imagine how much we might save if we redoubled our efforts to find a political solution to the current crisis in Macedonia before widespread violence breaks out! This is not just a matter of saving budgetary resources, however important that is, nor of avoiding politically difficult choices about deploying US troops in yet one more overseas operation, placing our soldiers once again in harms way, although that too is an important consideration. But it is mostly about preventing the tragic consequences of war for the innocent people who are its inevitable victims. Before the NATO-led deployments took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, thousands of citizens of these regions lost their lives; physical infrastructure, homes, farms, schools, and factories were destroyed; the bare rudiments of social connections across different ethnic groups were severed; and the human spirit of the peoples surviving in all of these regions was crushed by the violence that swept across their societies.
Rebuilding from the physical damage of war is the easy part; re-establishing mutual trust among peoples who have lived alongside one another for centuries, and who must inevitably continue to do so for the foreseeable future, will be far more difficult. Yet this is essential if the foundations of a functioning civil society are to be constructed, if individual human rights and the rights of persons belonging to minorities are to be respected, and if democratic governance and political stability are to be established. For all of these reasons, one clear lesson that emerges from our recent experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo is that it is a lot harder to "put Humpty Dumpty back together again" than it would have been to prevent him from falling off the wall in the first place.
A quotation found at the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial here in Washington states the goal of the OSCE succinctly: "More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars." This is the principal challenge that faces the OSCE today. Furthermore, there is no other multilateral institution or individual country that can perform this vital role today. Even before the end of the Cold War, Europe was crisscrossed with a wide variety of multilateral security institutions. Since 1990, most of these have revised and expanded their functions, and the web of institutions has become even thicker: NATO has been enlarged and transformed, and the European Union has expanded and adopted a "common foreign and security policy."
Yet within this region only the OSCE – in particular the Conflict Prevention Center with its missions and field activities as well as the High Commissioner on National Minorities - has a clear mandate, organizational structure, and significant acquired experience in the field of conflict management. When combined with the "human dimension" that infuses all of the OSCE’s work, this conflict prevention capacity constitutes the special contribution that only the OSCE brings to the European security "architecture." This is an especially important function that needs to be nurtured and strengthened with the active support of the OSCE's largest, wealthiest, and most powerful participating states, especially the United States.
In the written statement that I have provided the committee, I have attempted to highlight the many functions that the OSCE performs in the conflict prevention and resolution field on a daily basis. It has achieved numerous successes: most notably, I argue that the OSCE played a decisive role in preventing a potential outbreak of violence involving Russia and Ukraine over Crimea that could have affected vital U.S. interests. On the other hand, violence has broken out in places such as Chechnya, Kosovo, and most recently in Macedonia that the OSCE was powerless to prevent, but where OSCE missions are working to try to re-establish the essential conditions for peace. My overall assessment, therefore, is that the countries of Eastern Europe and Eurasia are better off today than they would likely be otherwise because of the work in those regions by the OSCE missions and field activities.
I also believe that the potential for the OSCE to play a more effective role in conflict management in the future is much greater than the modest results that have been achieved so far. I thus suggest in my written statement some measures that might enhance the capacity of the OSCE to play a more significant role in preventing and resolving violent conflicts: 1) enhancing the professional qualifications and training of its mission and support staff, 2) strengthening its capacity to mediate serious conflicts that appear to be on the brink of violence or that have become frozen in the aftermath of violence, including making better use of "eminent persons" to assist these efforts, and 3) attracting more active support from its major participating states, especially from the United States, to strengthen the OSCE's capacity to intervene early in potentially violent conflicts when diplomacy still has a chance to win out over force. Only when the United States, Russia, and the European Union countries step up to their responsibility to convert "early warning" into "early action" will the OSCE be able to fulfill its role not only in finding "an end to war....[but] an end of the beginnings of all wars."
Thank you for your attention and your interest in this important subject.
This written statement is submitted to supplement my oral presentation to the Commission about the performance and potential of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the fields of conflict prevention and resolution.
Introduction: The Special Role of the OSCE
Since the end of the Cold War, conflict prevention and resolution have moved to the forefront of OSCE activities. Yet these roles performed by the OSCE and its missions and field activities have gone largely unnoticed in governments and especially in the general public, not only in the United States but in much of Europe as well. We are all painfully aware of the failures of conflict prevention in the former communist regions of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia: Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Chechnya. We have also learned that intra-state conflict and the resulting regional instability can create a breeding ground for terrorist and criminal networks to organize and operate.
Yet when the OSCE is most successful at conflict prevention, it generally receives little attention or credit. This is in part because its most effective roles are performed in thousands of small-scale interventions in remote parts of the world, far away from the attention of the international media. Further, when conflicts are prevented, "nothing happens," and the media, public officials, and even scholars seldom pay much attention to "non-events." Therefore, when the "dogs don't bark" - when a potential conflict does not erupt into violence or when an old conflict remains dormant for many years - we may easily overlook the fact that this may the result of patient efforts by skilled diplomats working outside of the glare of public scrutiny in an effort to achieve concrete results.
In fact, I would submit that patient, but often overlooked preventive diplomacy and conflict management activities by OSCE missions and field operations have frequently made a significant contribution to the avoidance of violence in a number of potentially dangerous situations in the OSCE region, and that other conflicts have been moderated or prevented from escalating further due to the rapid, but often unseen work of these OSCE field missions and officials.
Drawing upon an analogy with the field of medicine, the principle that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" has long been accepted by our colleagues in the health field. The United States government and private sources devote billions of dollars every year to research on preventive medicine, because we know that the best way to deal with the most deadly killers of our population such as cancer and heart disease is by preventing their occurrence in the first place. Unfortunately, this simple truism has not yet been widely accepted in the field of foreign policy. For whatever reason, it seems to be easier to achieve a political consensus behind the deployment of large and expensive military peacemaking and peacekeeping operations than to provide the much smaller resources generally needed to carry on the activity of multilateral preventive diplomacy. Thus, for example, the entire annual U.S. assessment for all OSCE activities, including its missions, amounts to only about $20 million in the current fiscal year. At the same time we are spending over $4 billion each year to pay for the cost of US forces stationed with SFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina and with KFOR in Kosovo. Thus the U.S. contribution to conflict prevention in the OSCE region is approximately equivalent to what we spend in just two days to maintain our military presence in those two regions where violence occurred. As budgetary pressures become more stringent, and political opposition grows against the large-scale deployment of US troops overseas, perhaps we will learn that the need for such interventions might be averted if we invested even a small fraction of those resources into the less visible, but often more important work of conflict prevention. But this too requires a shift in our institutional focus: while it is NATO that implements peacekeeping operations, the North Atlantic alliance has little or no capacity to engage in conflict prevention. That vital role in conflict prevention, management, and resolution represents the comparative advantage of the OSCE, and it is to the OSCE that we should give our country's support to perform this role more effectively.
It is interesting to speculate about how much we might have saved if we had only devoted more resources, attention, and effort to conflict prevention before either of the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo exploded into violence. At this critical point in the history of Macedonia, it is also appropriate to consider how much we might save if we redouble our efforts to find a political solution to the current crisis in that troubled country before widespread violence breaks out. The deployment agreed to just last week of 210 unarmed OSCE monitors in Macedonia, protected by a force of 1000 NATO soldiers from Germany, France, and Italy under Operation Amber Fox, is illustrative of the kind of joint cooperation among security institutions that is necessary to prevent the further outbreak of violent conflicts in this fragile region.
This is not just a matter of saving budgetary resources, however important that is, or of avoiding politically difficult choices about deploying US troops in yet one more overseas operation, although that too is an important consideration. But it is mostly about preventing the tragic consequences of war for the innocent people who are its inevitable victims. Before the NATO-led deployments took place in Bosnia and Kosovo, thousands of residents of these regions lost their lives; physical infrastructure, homes, farms, schools, and factories were destroyed; the bare rudiments of social connections across different ethnic groups were severed; and the human spirit of the peoples surviving in all of these regions was crushed by the violence that swept across their societies.
Rebuilding from the physical damage is the easy part; re-establishing mutual trust among peoples who have lived alongside one another for centuries and who must inevitably continue to do so for the foreseeable future will be far more difficult. Yet this is essential if the foundations of a functioning civil society are to be constructed, if individual human rights and the rights of persons belonging to minorities are to be respected, and if democratic governance is to be established. For all of these reasons, one clear lesson that emerges from our recent experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo (and for that matter from the Russian experience in Chechnya) is that it is a lot harder to "put Humpty Dumpty back together again" than it would have been to prevent him from falling off the wall in the first place.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once observed that, "more than an end to war, we want an end of the beginnings of all wars." Preventing the outbreak of war throughout the entire OSCE region is the principal challenge that faces the OSCE today. Furthermore, there is no other multilateral institution or individual country at present that can perform this role. Even before the end of the Cold War, Europe was crisscrossed with a wide variety of multilateral security institutions. Since 1990, most of these have expanded their functions, and the web of institutions has become even thicker: NATO has been enlarged and transformed, the European Union has expanded and adopted a "common foreign and security policy," and the OSCE has created institutions such as the Conflict Prevention Center, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the High Commissioner on National Minorities. The United Nations continues to have an important role to play in European security, as does the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. Yet within this region only the OSCE has a clear mandate, an organizational structure, and significant acquired experience in the field of conflict prevention and resolution.
NATO has long been an important institution for deterring aggression against its members by promising a collective response in defense of its member states if they are attacked from outside. In the past decade, it has also developed a significant peacekeeping capability as well. By its very nature, NATO is a military organization that can support but not supplant diplomatic institutions in preventing the outbreak of violence and promoting the resolution of existing conflicts. Almost by definition, the introduction of NATO troops into a country experiencing conflict means that the point of no return is about to be, or already has been, crossed. At this point, efforts to achieve political solutions have usually been abandoned in favor of providing some form of "temporary" military security. The role of the OSCE missions and of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, by contrast, is ideally to enter into a situation long before it reaches the violent stage. By trying to assure full rights for all citizens in multinational states and by providing facilities for mediation and conflict resolution at the grassroots level, they seek to head off incidents before they reach the boiling point.
A further limitation of NATO is that it is still viewed with considerable skepticism in many of the regions of Eurasia most threatened with conflict, a legacy of the cold war and of the fact that some countries, especially Russia, are not members and are not likely to become so within the foreseeable future. To be effective in conflict resolution at the local level, it is necessary that outsiders not be perceived to be injecting global political issues onto the already complex set of local issues. Once again the OSCE has a comparative advantage over other institutions due to the universal participation of all states in the region where it operates.
The European Union has also sought to play a major role in some conflicts in the OSCE region, and the adoption at Maastricht in 1991 of a "common foreign and security policy" was supposed to signal a more active collective diplomatic effort on the part of the EU. However, so far European Union efforts have been plagued with considerable inconsistency and policy differences among its member states, and the outlines and priorities of the common foreign and security policy have emerged slowly, if at all. Furthermore, there has been a tendency for the European Union to try to demonstrate its bona fides in the field of conflict prevention and resolution by intervening in situations where other institutions and NGOs were already at work, often causing confusion, "institution shopping" on the part of disputants, and at times even undermining other efforts that might have promoted a successful resolution of disputes. The EU also suffers from the fact that two states whose contribution to European security is absolutely essential are not among its members - namely the United States and the Russian Federation. In short, I believe that the European Union has an essential role to play in contributing to the economic recovery and development of its neighbors to the east; the prospect of eventual membership provides a beacon for those states to undertake the difficult tasks required by democratization and economic reform. But its role in conflict prevention, resolution, and peacekeeping has yet to be established or validated on the basis of its record to date. Many of the same limitations apply as well to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union.
This leaves the OSCE as the only multilateral institution in the broad European region with a mandate and capacity to carry out the functions of conflict prevention and resolution in areas of tension within the region it covers. Furthermore, this capacity has grown considerably throughout the past decade and, as I will argue below, its potential for further growth is great. When the Conflict Prevention Center was first created by the Charter of Paris in 1990, it had a very limited mandate and a minute budget and staff. After the sad experience in the former Yugoslavia in 1991, its capacity has gradually grown to the point where today there are OSCE missions and other field activities in some 20 countries and regions of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. In the cases of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo those missions have also grown quite large, as the OSCE has been charged with significant political roles in rebuilding those war-torn regions, operating in two of those venues alongside the NATO-led forces of SFOR and KFOR. The missions have also been supported by two OSCE organs based outside of the country, namely the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which supports missions activities in areas such as democratization, elections, the rule of law, and human rights, and the High Commissioner on National Minorities, who works with missions in conflict prevention and resolution activities in conflicts involving ethno-national groups or between central governments and persons belonging to minority groups. Further high-level political support is frequently provided by the Chairperson-in-Office and other member governments serving in the OSCE Troika, as well as by officials of the OSCE Secretariat and Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna.
Specific OSCE Conflict Prevention and Resolution Activities Since 1991:
Over the past decade, I have engaged in a research project attempting to evaluate the effectiveness of OSCE missions and field activities. I have done considerable research on the activities of a substantial number of these missions, including extensive interviews with Heads of Missions, review of their regular detailed activity reports to the Conflict Prevention Center, attendance at numerous meetings of the OSCE Permanent Council and informal meetings with Heads of Mission in Vienna, and on-site visits to several missions in the field. I have been assisted in this endeavor by a Fulbright Fellowship to the OSCE based in Vienna in 1997 and a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellowship at the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington in 1998. As a consequence of this research, I have categorized OSCE field activities into five different functions that they perform in countries experiencing potential or actual violent conflict. Most missions and field activities perform multiple functions, but for purposes of my report here I will focus on prominent examples that illustrate each of these different functions. My statement will thus highlight each of these functions and present a brief evaluation of the major accomplishments and shortcomings of the OSCE in performing each of these functions:
1) Long-term conflict prevention through democratization, election monitoring, support for the rule of law, and respect for individual human rights and the rights of persons belonging to minority groups: It has become a generally established finding of social science research that democracies generally do not go to war with other democracies; furthermore, intra-state or civil conflicts are less likely to occur in societies that have well established procedures for the nonviolent resolution of conflicts of interest among their citizens. Therefore, the establishment of democratic processes, the creation of governments of laws and not of individuals, and processes to integrate persons belonging to minorities fully into the institutions of the state are together the best long-run guarantors of peace. Examples where the OSCE has played an important role in this regard include Estonia and Latvia, where the OSCE played a significant role on behalf of large minorities of ethnic Russian denied citizenship rights in these Baltic states. Furthermore, the OSCE has recently embarked upon an effort to defend democracy in Belarus against an authoritarian government that has reversed that country's early post-Soviet progress in the field of democratization. As one of a very few international institutions operating in Belarus, the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group has played a vital role in providing international protection for non-governmental organizations and a severely restricted political opposition within that country.
However, it is important to realize that democratization is an extremely difficult and long-term task even in the best of circumstances. Centuries of authoritarian rule throughout the region have created a climate in which few persons if any were alive in 1990 who had ever lived in a democratic state. As a result, the transition to a fully democratic society, in which more than the outward appearance of democracy is established and in which democratic values are truly internalized throughout the population, is unlikely to take place rapidly. Democracy is inherently fragile in all transitional societies, and more immediate measures of conflict prevention and resolution will frequently be required in order to avoid an outbreak of violence that might set back the democratization process by a decade or more. The linkage of security to political and humanitarian concerns epitomizes the special role that the OSCE missions have come to play in societies undergoing radical transformation since the collapse of communism.
2) The prevention of violent outcomes in potential conflict situations: As noted above, a major function of the OSCE has been to prevent "Humpty Dumpty" from falling off of his wall. The organization's record in this case is mixed. In my opinion, however, the OSCE has often been blamed unfairly for failing to prevent conflicts. Too often OSCE inaction was the result of the refusal by one or more of its participating states to take action recommended by OSCE mission heads or other officials such as the High Commissioner on National Minorities, i.e., by the failure to obtain the consensus that is required to take decisive action. Furthermore, in the early post-cold war years the OSCE did not have a sufficient structural capacity to respond to brewing conflicts. Thus the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were well underway by the time the first CSCE mission of long-duration was sent into the field in late 1992, following the Helsinki Follow-on Meeting that summer. In the case of Kosovo, the OSCE was hamstrung by the fact that it had suspended the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from participation in May 1992. Although there were many good reasons for this action, it also had the perverse effect of preventing the OSCE from having any access on the ground in the Kosovo region until tensions had passed the point of no return. By the time the United States, led by Ambassador Holbrooke, persuaded the parties to accept an OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission on the ground in October 1998, it was a case of too little being done much too late. In my opinion, a similar decision a year or more earlier, however, might have prevented the bloody war and subsequent international occupation of Kosovo, although of course it is always impossible to prove "what might have happened if....” But it is very clear that the OSCE and especially the special representative of the Chairman-in-Office, Ambassador Max van der Stoel, provided substantial "early warning" of impending disaster in Kosovo, and it was failure of key participating states - including the United States - to take "early action" that in my opinion was largely responsible for the violent outcome in Kosovo.
Looking at the other side of the coin, the OSCE has contributed to the successful resolution of potentially violent conflicts in several regions of Eurasia. Perhaps most notable is the role played by the OSCE in mediating between nationalistic ethnic Russian politicians in Crimea and the central government of Ukraine that was critical in reaching a solution to that volatile conflict that could have easily exploded into violence. Russian nationalists wanted to separate Crimea from Ukraine and perhaps return it to its pre-1954 status as a part of the Russian Federation, and the Ukrainian government was prepared to do anything necessary to prevent this from happening. Special credit here goes to the OSCE's High Commissioner on National Minorities, Ambassador Max van der Stoel, whose continuing intercession, often using a process known as "seminar diplomacy" or "problem-solving workshops," played a major role in promoting a nonviolent outcome in this potentially grave situation. Ambassador van der Stoel's work was also backed up by continuous efforts of the OSCE mission members in both Kyiv and Simferopol to broker a solution guaranteeing substantial Crimean autonomy while preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Furthermore, this effort was especially important due to the strategic significance of the region. Needless to say, a war in the mid-1990s between Russia and Ukraine would have created a severe international crisis that would have affected the vital interests of the entire West, including the United States. Even if this were the only accomplishment of the OSCE in the past decade, I would argue that this alone was worth all of the effort and resources that have been put into the entire organization by the United States and our European allies.
But this is, of course, not the only significant accomplishment of the OSCE during the past decade. At least until recently, I would argue that the OSCE mission to Skopje (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) has played an instrumental role in preventing that former Yugoslav republic from falling into the kind of violence that has swept across Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Of course, the results of those efforts have recently been placed in doubt as violence has expanded in regions of Macedonia inhabited by large ethnic Albanian populations. Several factors largely beyond the control of the OSCE have conspired to push the situation in Macedonia toward the brink of violence, including the collapse of the government of Albania in 1997 and the looting of large supplies of light weapons and munitions from its storehouses that made their way into Kosovo and subsequently into Macedonia, the removal of UNPREDEP from the northern border regions due to Chinese opposition in the UN, and the growing ambitions of some ethnic Albanian politicians to follow-up their "success" in Kosovo with a similar effort to split heavily Albanian-populated regions of Macedonia off from the rest of the country, perhaps eventually creating a "greater Albania." Through all of this, the OSCE mission has remained on the ground and the High Commissioner on National Minorities has not slacked off in his efforts to try to hold this fragile society together before it follows the path taken by Bosnia and Kosovo in the recent past. It is clearly in the direct and immediate interest of the United States to see that these efforts are successful. Further instability in Macedonia will potentially undermine all of our efforts to date to bring stability to the Balkans region, and this may also require additional costly and politically unpopular deployments of US troops in the region. At this critical juncture, the OSCE deserves the full support of the United States government, because preventive action NOW is our only hope to avoid difficult and unpopular choices in the months ahead.
3) Cease-fire Mediation: Once violence breaks out in a country, the OSCE role has generally been limited. One exception, however, was the first war in Chechnya that started with the Russian military assault in December 1994. Shortly afterwards the OSCE Permanent Council created the OSCE Assistance Group, which set up operation in Grozny in 1995. Russia, as a country that still clings to its self-image as a great power, was of course reluctant to permit any presence by a multilateral organization on its soil. Therefore, it was somewhat surprising when the Russian government permitted a small OSCE "assistance group" to be established in the very vortex of the fighting. Under the able leadership of the second Head of Mission, Ambassador Tim Guldimann of Switzerland, the OSCE expanded its activity beyond monitoring human rights violations and war crimes and assumed a role as an active mediator between the Chechen leaders and officials in Moscow. Guldimann's shuttle diplomacy, involving more than 50 trips between Grozny and Moscow, was largely responsible for setting up the meeting at Khasavyurt between Alexander Lebed and Zelimkhan Yanderbiev that brought an end to fighting and a withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya in August 1996.
Subsequently, the OSCE assumed the major role in preparing, conducting, and monitoring the presidential elections in Chechnya in January 1997, in which Aslan Maskhadov was elected. Sadly, the internal situation in Chechnya degenerated into anarchy, with frequent violence directed at outsiders, even those representing international humanitarian organizations. This was followed by a renewal of Russian military action against Chechnya in 1999, after the OSCE Assistance Group had moved its offices to Moscow due to fear about the safety of mission members if they remained in Chechnya. Tragically, this also resulted in a decline of OSCE influence over the parties, and extensive efforts to re-establish a mediating role for the OSCE, undertaken at the Istanbul Summit in November 1999 by the United States and several other countries, failed to bring results; indeed, only this past June did the OSCE Assistance group finally return to Chechnya. This tragic outcome, however, should not cause us to overlook completely the potential for the OSCE to play an important mediating role, even in the midst of violent conflict, as it did in Chechnya in 1995-96.
4) Conflict resolution after a cease-fire is in place: Since the major OSCE conflict prevention functions were created after the spate of post-cold war violence in the early 1990's, a major focus for OSCE missions has been to try to broker longer-term resolution of the conflicts that had produced the previous chain of violence. In addition, the OSCE has sought to prevent the renewal of violence in situations where serious tensions remain. This has been the major focus of the OSCE missions in Moldova (regarding Transdniestria), Georgia (especially regarding South Ossetia and to a lesser degree Abkhazia where the UN has taken the lead role), Tajikistan, and the so-called Minsk Group dealing with the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In this area, the OSCE record is clearly mixed, and there is probably no single aspect of the work of the OSCE where so far performance has failed to meet expectations. On the positive side of the ledger, in none of these regions has large-scale violence reappeared since the OSCE missions entered. In most cases, the OSCE has played a useful role in monitoring the performance of peacekeeping forces, especially those of the CIS, mostly from Russia. In addition, OSCE activities in democratization, human rights, the rule of law, refugee resettlement, and support for the rights of persons belonging to minorities has assisted local authorities in keeping tensions below the boiling point. Perhaps of greatest importance, in each case the OSCE has played a third party role in keeping lines of communications open and negotiations underway between former belligerent factions to try to resolve some of the important issues underlying these conflicts. Most of these conflicts have become frozen in place: there is no settlement, but also no return to mass violence. This is no small accomplishment, but it also leaves open the potential for the OSCE to improve its effectiveness at managing negotiations to enhance its ability to bring about long-term settlement of frozen conflicts so that life in these divided states may return to some state of normalcy.
5) Post-conflict reconstruction and security-building: After episodes of significant violence, social relations within society are usually badly broken. Hatred, anger, and the desire for revenge become dominant emotions that often reinforce the differences that produced conflict in the first place. Rebuilding war-torn societies is often a long and difficult task. It would not be appropriate to expect Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks to forget about their long and bitter struggle in a few short years. Thus one of the major challenges facing the OSCE has been to try to assist societies torn by conflict in their efforts to rebuild. NATO can help by providing security, both for international personnel and to prevent opposing sides from resuming violence. The European Union and other international financial institutions can assist by contributing desperately needed economic aid to rebuild infrastructure and jump start economies so that they can begin to grow on their own and thus reduce the poverty that so often becomes a breeding ground for violence. But in virtually all cases of violence in the European region, the primary responsibility for reconstructing political institutions and developing a democratic political framework for resolving differences peacefully - the most difficult task these regions face - has fallen overwhelmingly to the OSCE.
This activity has been the major focus of some of the largest of the OSCE missions, including the missions in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo. It has also been the primary task of the OSCE Presence in Albania, as well as an important function of the missions in Georgia and Moldova as well. In many ways, OSCE activities in this category resemble those of the long-term democracy building activities mentioned in the first category above, only here these activities face the especially difficult challenge of operating in a post-conflict situation. OSCE's close cooperation with other security institutions, especially with the UN, NATO, and the EU, is especially necessary in these regions. In the effort to revive these war-torn societies, the OSCE cannot succeed alone, but its contribution is nonetheless essential to the successful accomplishment of this task.
Evaluation and Recommendations: The OSCE Balance Sheet and Proposals for Strengthening the OSCE
In summary, when one surveys all of the myriad activities that the OSCE has undertaken during the past decade in the field of conflict prevention and resolution, one cannot escape the conclusion that, in spite of all its shortcomings and failures, it plays a much more significant role than it is generally credited with. In my opinion, it deserves a place of at least equal status with NATO when we in the United States evaluate the role that multilateral institutions play in contributing to security in the North Atlantic and pan-Eurasian region. Its role often goes unrecognized in part because it works in so many relatively obscure locations, and most of its successes are the consequence of thousands of small accomplishments achieved day-by-day, village-by-village, rather than any single, dramatic result that can readily be pointed to.
Furthermore, as I noted previously, when it is most successful, very few people notice and thus very little credit is given where credit is due. The failures - Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, and Kosovo - make headlines. The successes can be uncovered by outsiders only with painstaking and difficult research about potential crises that never materialized. The many accomplishments on a daily basis, often small achievements individually but of great importance collectively, are easily overlooked. The men and women who serve in OSCE missions in the staff in Vienna, the Hague, and Warsaw, and in national delegations to the OSCE institutions are often making significant accomplishments in keeping us out of crises for which they seldom, if ever, receive the credit they deserve. The OSCE is certainly not a panacea and cannot bring peace to Eurasia alone, but without its steadfast work throughout the region it is extremely likely that violence, violation of human rights, and degradation of the human spirit would be far more widespread than they are today.
That having been said, the next question that naturally arises is, can the OSCE do better at its conflict prevention and resolution functions? And if so, what needs to be done to strengthen it? My answer to the first questions is definitely "yes." The question of how to strengthen the OSCE is somewhat more complex. One of the strengths of the OSCE is that it is a relatively small, non-bureaucratic and flexible body, in notable contrast to many other multilateral organizations. Any effort to strengthen the organization must also be careful not to undermine its flexibility and resilience that are essential to its ability to respond in a timely fashion to brewing conflicts.
Nonetheless, there are several modest steps that might strengthen the OSCE's capacity to work effectively in conflict prevention and resolution without entailing great costs or the creation of a large, cumbersome bureaucracy:
First, the OSCE needs a more professionally competent, well-trained staff, especially in its missions. At present, it depends too much on short-term volunteers and personnel seconded to the OSCE by the participating states. Many of these people go into the field with little or no knowledge about the region where they are being sent, and little or no training about the process, skills, and techniques of conflict resolution. They are usually on short-term contracts that too often expire just as they are beginning to get a grasp of the issues with which they are supposed to be dealing. Many people are selected to serve on missions either because they are available for short-term assignments or they are seconded by governments since they are not needed elsewhere. In spite of these limitations, many OSCE personnel have done an excellent job. Yet they could do much better with proper training and enough time in the field to really learn their job and how to perform it effectively. The REACT Program has improved training somewhat, but this program still depends on each participating state to train its own volunteers, and the results are inconsistent at best. Heads of Missions are generally very qualified senior diplomats, but they too often have to work with very limited resources and inexperienced, inadequately trained personnel.
Similarly, the OSCE could benefit from a strengthened analytical office and information resources in the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna. A small group of highly trained specialists in each of the major mission functions - elections, human rights, rights of persons belonging to minorities, democratization, freedom of the media, conflict prevention, mediation and conflict resolution - could provide extensive support to each of the missions when needed. A better library and access to internet resources could provide an enhanced capacity to support the work of missions in the field, which often work in isolated locations cut off from access to the vast stores of knowledge and information available in major global centers. Furthermore, this analytical center might assist the OSCE missions in getting "early warning" messages about incipient conflicts rapidly into the hands of those capable of developing an early response, so that action may be initiated prior to crossing the point of no return in the cycle of violence, when effective preventive action is no longer sufficient to head off an escalatory spiral.
Second, the OSCE also needs to develop a greater capacity to engage proactively in order to mediate series conflicts that appear to be on the brink of violence or that have become frozen in the aftermath of violence. The High Commissioner on National Minorities represents a model of an OSCE official who can enter into disputes rapidly and without any special mandate, enabling him to respond on the spur of the moment. Many other OSCE institutions, however, remain mired in potential paralysis created by the need to find consensus (or approximate consensus) within the Permanent Council where all 55 participating states are represented. Moving from the recognition that a problem is brewing to a political decision to initiate a timely response remains the Achilles heel of almost all international organizations. In order to begin to overcome these obstacles to timely response, there are several things the OSCE might do:
1) It could create a greater institutional capacity to bring "eminent persons" to intervene on their own initiative in extremely sensitive or urgent situations. This can be done in part by upgrading the status of the OSCE's Secretary General, who now plays primarily an administrative role; as a consequence, the Secretary General is not generally available to play the kind of role played by the UN Secretary General in many severe crises where his personal intervention may produce positive results when all other efforts have failed. Political leadership for the OSCE is provided by the Chairperson-in-Office, but this position rotates every year so that there is not sufficient continuity or consistency from one individual to the next to enable this person to play a long-term role as ombudsman or mediator. Until recently the best known personality in the OSCE was the High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, who retired this past summer. It will be essential that Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, who seceded van der Stoel, be given comparable support by the participating states so that he can carry on the important role that the High Commissioner has played since the office was created, namely to intervene, often on very short notice, into potential conflicts to try to resolve them before they escalate out of control.
At the same time the OSCE needs to broaden its institutional capacity to react in a timely fashion on issues that do not fall under the mandate of the High Commissioner. Sometimes, of course, the OSCE can rely on eminent persons coming from among its participating states, as was the case when Richard Holbrooke assumed an important mediating role in the conflicts in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. However, it is far better in principle to have such individuals operate within the OSCE framework, except in extraordinary circumstances, since the representative of a multilateral institution will generally be accorded greater legitimacy by disputing parties than will the representative of any single participating state.
2) OSCE's participating states must accord the organization the attention and support that it deserves within the overall framework of European security institutions. Although the OSCE is by no means the only or the primary European security institution, it definitely has a comparative advantage in many important areas, especially in the "human dimension" as a result of its cold war legacy and in the conflict prevention domain due to its newly developed capacity since the end of the cold war. Only if its unique strengths are recognized and utilized can it be effective in converting "early warning" into "early action," the essential ingredient for preventing the "beginnings of all wars."
This means that the United States government should give OSCE priority in dealing with broad European security issues of at least equal importance as NATO, while recognizing the different strengths of each. Unless the United States can help enhance the OSCE’s capacity to prevent new violent conflicts and to resolve conflicts that recently produced violence, we are likely to be faced with a continuing series of hard choices: either we will have to send more US troops abroad in politically unpopular missions or we will be forced to stand by while violence and instability spread across regions of Europe and Eurasia, causing greater humanitarian tragedies and possibly threatening vital national interests.
Similarly, we cannot count on European institutions like the European Union or the Council of Europe to deal with all crises that arise on their own continent. Our European friends also need to give the OSCE significant priority alongside their efforts to enlarge and strengthen the European Union. They need to be realistic about the ability of an expanding EU to reach a consensus about foreign and security policy. Even if they are successful in that endeavor, their capacity to implement effective action is likely to be limited without the close cooperation of the United States and/or Russia. And such cooperation can best be achieved when they work within the framework of the one European security institution in which those two countries are represented, that is, the OSCE.
Finally, we need to encourage the Russians to take their own rhetoric about the potential for the OSCE seriously. In the early post-cold war years, Russian rhetoric emphasized the primacy of the OSCE among European security institutions. They seem to have largely abandoned that effort following their failure to block the enlargement of NATO. But that doesn't mean that we should give up encouraging them to make more effective use of the OSCE to deal with the many and serious security threats that surround them on all sides, threats in which NATO has no effect on Russian security one way or the other. Furthermore, we can best convince the Russians to take the OSCE seriously by taking it seriously ourselves. Russia is naturally reluctant to accept a significant OSCE role of intervention in conflicts within its own borders and throughout its "near abroad," while the OSCE assiduously avoids any involvement in any Western country, even those experiencing problems comparable to some that have arisen in the former Soviet republics. In short, we need to convince Russia than an effective OSCE will serve their own long-term security interests by providing greater stability in regions of vital interest to them, and that it can do so in an even-handed way.
In the process, we might also come to realize that the OSCE also serves long-term US interests by helping to create a more stable, peaceful, and democratic regime in those regions formerly ruled by communist governments. Indeed, this is a vital interest that all OSCE participating states share, even though they do not always fully recognize this convergence of interest. Promoting collective action to support these goals of common security throughout the OSCE region thus ought to be a high priority goal for U.S. foreign policy as we enter the 21st century.