This hearing has been convened by the Helsinki Commission to review U.S. policy toward the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). I would like to start out by stressing how much we appreciate the close working relationship that has developed between the Commission and the Department of State over the past years. This hearing is an opportunity to build on that partnership as we look ahead.
The Commission is keenly interested in how the Administration is making use of the OSCE to promote U.S. interests in the expansive OSCE region, in particular as a tool for advancing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. These are core values of the Helsinki process, recognized as integral to peace and security both within and among States.
The United States should not shy away from difficult subjects because they might be unpleasant to another government. As human rights defender Andrei Sakharov once observed, “the whole point of the Helsinki Accords is mutual monitoring, not mutual evasion of difficult problems.” One of the strengths of the OSCE is that our countries, on the basis of consensus, have developed a body of shared commitments. In this regard, I welcome the leadership Ambassador Minikes has demonstrated since taking up his post as Head of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE in Vienna.
To be truly effective, however, the various components of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus – the State Department, U.S. embassies in the field, and the U.S. Mission to OSCE – must be mutually reinforcing. It is also imperative that senior U.S. officials visiting participating States be consistent in the message they deliver. This is especially true when it comes to the countries of Central Asia.
The events of the past year since we last met to take stock of our common work confirm that the values and commitments reflected in the Helsinki Final Act are more important than ever, and that the OSCE can be an invaluable tool in strengthening the implementation of these commitments and thereby our security.
The OSCE's definition of security encompasses not only the human dimension, but the economic and security dimensions as well. The Commission is paying increasing attention to the multi-dimensional aspect of the OSCE’s work. Often, issues cannot be pegged to a single dimension. For example, independent, effective judicial systems are crucial to redress for human rights violations; they are also crucial to the development of strong market economies. Police forces are instrumental in ensuring security, but sometimes can be themselves perpetrator of human rights violations. Corruption threatens the development of democratic institutions in many countries, and organized crime is a major source of funding for terrorist organizations. The OSCE is well-positioned to address many of these cross-dimensional issues.
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Corruption and organized crime remain major roadblocks to progress in democratization and development of rule of law in many transition countries. I am concerned that if corruption is not addressed, OSCE efforts to develop democratic institutions will falter. I urge the Department to explore ways to promote practical cooperation among the 55 OSCE countries in combating corruption and international crime and how this critical topic might be reflected in the Porto Ministerial document.
I would like to touch briefly to specific concerns in three OSCE participating States: Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Developments in the Republic of Georgia appear almost on a daily basis in our newspapers and the Commission recently convened a hearing to assess the grave situation in that country. Given the involvement of scores of Coloradans in the U.S.- sponsored train and equip program, I am particularly concerned over threats to the sovereignty and independence of Georgia that could impact U.S. forces deployed in that country. The United States must remain actively engaged diplomatically to avert possible aggression from Russia.
In Belarus, the regime remains determined to pursue a reckless course of self-isolation as the human rights and economic conditions in the country deteriorate even further. The lack of legitimate executive and parliamentary leadership can only be remedied through the holding of free and fair elections in a manner consistent with OSCE commitments. Meanwhile, the U.S. must remain steadfast in support of Belarusian democracy in recognition that the people of Belarus deserve a better future.
Finally turning to Ukraine, the gravity of President Kuchma’s personal approval of the sale of sophisticated radars to Iraq requires a decisive and unequivocal response from the United States. A cosmetic approach will not suffice and those who would promote a measured response are shortsighted. The issues at stake are too high to conduct business as usual with him. Priority should be given to investigating any financial links between the Ukrainian leader and his associates and sales to rouge states, including Iraq. Devoid of credibility, Mr. Kuchma deserves to be treated as the pariah he has become.