Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Chairman - Helsinki Commission


Welcome to the latest in a series of hearings the Helsinki Commission has held on the United States and the OSCE. These hearings provide a valuable opportunity to examine U.S. policy in a critical region of the world and Washington's relations with a multilateral organization that encompasses all of Europe, the former Soviet Union and the United States and Canada.

The OSCE remains a unique institution which specifically addresses human rights and democratization difficulties and works cooperatively to find solutions. This is a courageous and sometimes painful process from which no country is immune, as we are about to see at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting in Warsaw. But, since democratic development is dynamic, it is essential to keep this momentum going. No other international institution has the tools, the mandate and the flexibility to do this. The Commission is anxious to ensure that OSCE retains its legendary adaptability to address today's problems and we look forward to hearing the Department's concrete ideas on how to accomplish this.

Last week, at our hearing, Dutch Foreign Minister and OSCE Chair-in-Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said it most clearly: "The role of the United States continues to be essential to making the OSCE work."

The explicit and implicit connection between security and human rights--the fulcrum of the Helsinki process--has been at the center of U.S. thinking and policy since the day almost exactly two years ago when religious fanatics flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing over 3,000 men, women and children. Americans can no longer be indifferent to events on the other side of the globe, as now there is greater awareness that failed states are breeding grounds for terrorists with world-wide range. And the link between state repression and violence makes building democracy a vital U.S. national security interest.

Building democracy in Central Asia, though, is proving to be daunting. In fact, there is less freedom in Central Asian states than there was in the late 1980s. This sad truth raises an important and disturbing question about one of the key practices of democracyelections. After a decade of experience, our conclusion is that elections in much of the former USSR have become a farce.

We have grown accustomed to a pattern of deception and self-deception. The OSCE's ODIHR dutifully dispatches needs assessment missions. Yet, after another rigged contest, the observation mission crafts a carefully worded condemnation. The host state graciously acknowledges shortcomings, begs indulgence on account of its youthful democracy, and the charade continues. The State Department's spokesman repeats the assessment of the ODIHR, expresses disappointment at yet another lost opportunity and pledges to continue working with authoritarian leaders who have no intention of allowing their essentially hostage people decide who governs them or how.

With no serious consequences, authoritarian leaders know they can steal any election with impunity. Election after election, they ignore the will of their own people and sneer at the OSCE, while asking us for more security assistance.

For much of the last decade, it was possible to hope that the next generation of post-communist leaders would be better than their predecessors. In Senate testimony last year, Assistant Secretary Jones said as much. But we now see, in Azerbaijan, the rise of what may well be only the first of a crop of family dynasties. It becomes more and more difficult to harbor expectations that the future will be better or even much different from the past and present.

Frankly, this has been a troublesome year for trans-Atlantic relations. The OSCE remains one of the institutions that can help bridge those tensions. It has a long history of working through problems even where ideology or policy differences seemed insurmountable. Not only does the OSCE have the broadest mandate of any Euro-Atlantic institution, it has numerous ways to work cooperatively on small projects that help to overcome larger concerns. This would seem an opportune time to use the OSCE to advantage.

With this as background, it is time for us to have an open exchange with the Department's representatives on what Washington can do to move developments where we would like to see them go--bilaterally and using the multifaceted opportunities of the OSCE. Our witnesses today are:

The Honorable A. Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and

The Honorable Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State. Mr. Craner also serves as a fellow Commissioner on the Helsinki Commission.

We welcome you both and look forward to your testimony.