The activities of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the countries of post-Soviet space have been on the radar screen in recent months. Scandals occur in succession to attract more public spotlight each time. The OSCE present activities appear to have little to do with the goals the organization is supposed to pursue.
For instance, on Sunday a few hundred demonstrators blocked the OSCE mission in Luhansk to protest against the organization’s biased policies. The mission was reluctant to react as it should have when fire was opened by Ukrainian military who regularly act in defiance of the Minsk accords.
Actually, the OSCE is to serve as a mechanism to manage the conflicts in its zone of responsibility, for instance, the stand-off in Nagorno-Karabakh. The OSCE has a mission in Erevan. It also had one in Baku until recently. This June Azerbaijan sent a Note Verbale to the OSCE, informing the Organization that the Government terminates the Memorandum of Understanding between the Organization and the Government on the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku.
Andrei Kelin, Russia's envoy to the OSCE, said the move was a response to the decision of the OSCE to terminate the appointment of the Head of the Office Alexis Chahtahtinsky, a French diplomat. According to Kelin, Chahtahtinsky conducted his activities in accordance with the rules set by the government of Azerbaijan instead of cooperating with the opposition. That’s what caused his removal.
Azeri officials said the United States was behind it.
One should not overestimate the implications of the Baku’s decision on the termination by Azerbaijan of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Project Co-ordinator in Baku between the government of Azerbaijan and the OSCE. Probably, it’s all part of political bargaining which includes other problems aside from «democratic rhetoric». Energy related agenda is much more important for Europeans, while the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is an issue of concern for Azerbaijan.
The move taken by Baku in June has symbolic significance. At least it echoes the discontent of Azeri national elite frustrated with the OSCE. It is mainly caused by the fact that the organization’s local offices focus on monitoring internal situation while playing down the role of inter-government relations in the field of security enhancement.
Since a long time ago Washington has been systematically making attempts to control various international bodies, from the ones engaged in sports and humanitarian activities to the agencies specializing in international affairs. It damages the international standing of OSCE. Instead of being an impartial mediator it is turning into an instrument of protecting US interests in the post-Soviet space.
This is a good example to illustrate the affirmation: a group of people who identified themselves as an «OSCE observer team» tried to enter the territory of autonomy (Crimea) during the «Crimean spring» of 2014. They were kept away from entering the peninsula to prevent provocations. In the spring and summer of 2014 combat actions took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The ladies and gentlemen from the OSCE regularly issued reports with murky content. By and large it all boiled down to the expression of sympathies for the Kiev regime.
The OSCE monitoring mission did not apply due efforts to seek peaceful solution to the crisis in the Donbass. It has lost any appearance of objectivity. Here is an example to illustrate the fact – the OSCE refused to monitor the elections held in the Donbass and Luhansk regions in November 2014, as well as it also failed to come up with clear condemnation of human rights in the zone of «anti-terrorist operation» conducted by Ukrainian government forces. There were cases when the OSCE refused to monitor the process of heavy arms withdrawal by Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk accords. The OSCE has ceased to be a factor reducing tensions along the front line. Its activities produce quite a different result.
It’s not the first time the OSCE acts this way. It left a bad memory in South Ossetia when it connived at Georgia’s invasion. The organization hindered the process of taking steps to defend Tskhinval and other populated areas of South Ossetia, the mission observers turned a blind eye on the seizure of commanding heights and concentration of heavy weapons by Georgia’s armed formations in the zone of conflict and the fact that Georgia implemented the policy of state terror against South Ossetia.
Gennady Kokoev, a political scholar, says the OSCE regularly conducted monitoring activities to make South Ossetia withdraw weapons (including defensive ones) from the zone of conflict to make it fully disarm and give one-sided advantage to Georgia. The OSCE possessed insider information about the planned criminal action. The organization’s representatives behaved in a cowardly way. They also committed a crime leaving the city three hours before multiple launchers started shelling Tshinval, Kokoev adds.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia are recognized by Russia as independent states. The OSCE has no mission there since 2009. Probably there are serious reasons for that. In 2013 two officers from the UK and Poland were detained. They operated under the cover of the OSCE in the vicinity of Russian ammunition depot. It became known that the infiltrators worked for the OSCE mission in South Ossetia before the Georgian troops invaded upon the order of then president Mikheil Saakashvili. In the both cases they were on a routine mission to conduct spying activities as they usually did.
Willy Wimmer, former Parliamentary Secretaryat the German Federal Ministry of Defence and Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary, said that «Americans did really everything possible to prevent creating CSCE*-type organization in Asian part of the continent because this form of international cooperation contradicted the US interests and Nazarbayev’s huge achievement was that such organization nevertheless came into being in the form of SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization)».
In his interview he also added that «The conflict in Yugoslavia revealed some rough goings which make me be very careful today while talking about the OSCE mission in relation to Ukraine. Then in Kosovo the observers were under the command of an American. The OSCE’s own experience revealed: if a mission is headed by Americans there will be no relation to what observers really registered. The only information to be published will be the one that is useful for the goals of American policies. It means that then in Yugoslavia, we, Germans, diplomats and military, reported completely accurate information but what was written in OSCE reports under the pressure of Americans was quite the opposite. And then German leaders, Fischer, Schroeder and Scharping, got reasons to justify unleashing a war. So, the OSCE practice is at odds with reality and we learned from previous experience that observers were used for intelligence purposes more than once.» He made precise that they conducted spying activities «…under the cover of OSCE mission. And this could happen in Ukraine», Mr. Wimmer added.
The collective security in Eurasia is too important to be the responsibility of an organization which is actually a pro-American body with dubious legal authority. The creation of mechanisms alternative to the OSCE could be a long and hard effort. But the time has come to ponder the issue and, probably, start taking practical steps in this direction.
(*) CSCE – the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. It was renamed into Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1995