This report, submitted pursuant to Section 5 of the Act to Establish a Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 22 U.S.C. 3005 (1976), as amended, discusses U.S. policy objectives advanced in 2017 through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and presents U.S. priorities for 2018.
U.S. Policy Objectives
The OSCE is the primary multilateral organization through which the United States advances comprehensive political-military, economic, environmental, and human dimension security and stability in Europe and Central Asia. U.S. leadership and engagement in the OSCE helps advance democratic reform and sustainable economic development, address regional and transnational threats, prevent and resolve conflicts, support civil society and independent media, promote tolerance and non-discrimination, and defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. The vast majority of the OSCE’s 57 participating States share the United States’ commitment to OSCE principles. The United States countered efforts by the Russian Federation and other authoritarian states to undermine foundational OSCE principles and agreements and independent OSCE institutions, as they seek to evade accountability for contravening their OSCE commitments.
Preventing and Resolving Conflicts
The OSCE plays an important role in addressing Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea and its aggression in eastern Ukraine. The United States supports implementation of the Minsk agreements through the Normandy format process and the Trilateral Contact Group (in which the OSCE is an important player). We are also the largest single contributor of financing and personnel to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), which provides critical information on the security situation in eastern Ukraine and efforts to implement the Minsk agreements. The SMM plays a key role in mitigating the deteriorating humanitarian situation in eastern Donbas by coordinating local cease-fires, which allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and repairs to key infrastructure. We continue to press Russia to order the forces it arms, trains, leads, and fights alongside to cease their harassment campaign against SMM monitors and to ensure full, unrestricted access for the mission throughout territories not controlled by the Ukrainian government. The death in April 2017 of American SMM member Joseph Stone while in a non-government-controlled area underscores both the importance and the danger of this mission.
In addition, the United States supports key platforms of the OSCE engaged in conflict management and resolution: the Minsk Group to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; the Geneva International Discussions, which address the consequences of the 2008 conflict in Georgia; and the 5+2 talks to settle the Transnistrian conflict. We rallied the support of Canada and European states in supporting Georgia in light of Russia’s continued occupation of parts of the country, and we supported OSCE efforts that yielded significant progress on confidence building measures in the Transnistrian settlement process. The United States also supported reinvigorated Minsk Group activities in light of commitments taken by the Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents at their October 2017 summit in Geneva to intensify negotiations and take additional steps to reduce tensions.
The United States continues to press for modernization of the Vienna Document to address modern security and military realities. We support a widely endorsed proposal to reduce thresholds for notification of military activities, as well as proposals to increase inspections and evaluations, and other proposals to rebuild military transparency in Europe.
The Structured Dialogue on current and future challenges and risks to security in the OSCE area was formally launched in April 2017. The Dialogue fosters open and productive discussion on security issues of importance to OSCE participating States. Future discussions will include further work on threat perceptions, developments in military doctrines and trends in force postures, as well as military activities that have the potential to concern any participating State, and core issues such as active and protracted conflicts in the region.
Countering Transnational Threats
The United States supported innovative approaches to implementing OSCE security commitments, including deploying mobile training teams to the Balkans and Central Asia to help interdict the flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) to and from Syria and northern Iraq, further implementation of OSCE cyber confidence building measures, and a new cybercrime investigative project in the Balkans. We assisted participating States in implementing relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. The United States supported OSCE’s participation as a partner to the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), promoted OSCE border security initiatives throughout the OSCE region, including addressing FTF and related security challenges, conducted counterterrorism finance training for the countries of Central Asia, and strengthened criminal justice sector responses to terrorism in the OSCE states.
Economic Development and Environmental Issues
The United States advocated successfully at the 2017 Ministerial Council for the adoption of a decision to promote a sound business environment that leads to economic participation in the OSCE area and away from possible radicalization to violence and criminality. A second decision on greening the economy and fostering environmental cooperation failed to achieve consensus, but was then released by Austria as a Chairmanship Declaration. The United States supported the OSCE Office of the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) in efforts to build the capacity of participating States to combat corruption, money laundering, and the financing of terrorism. We continue to leverage the OSCE’s economic and environmental dimension as a platform to promote good governance and anti-corruption.
Human Rights and Democracy
The United States works closely with OSCE institutions – Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM), and the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) – to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In the OSCE Permanent Council and at the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) we advocate for implementation of the full range of OSCE commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms, rule of law, media freedom, democratic principles of government, and tolerance and non-discrimination, and we call governments to account for abuses. The United States supported ODIHR election observation missions by seconding Americans and funding a project designed to diversify the pool of observers. U.S. extra-budgetary funding for ODIHR supports human rights and governance projects, including projects on the political participation of persons with disabilities and human rights defenders.
Defense of Civil Society
In 2017, the United States continued to champion the essential role played by human rights defenders and civil society groups in strengthening the human dimension of security. We called out states for contravening OSCE commitments on the fundamental freedom of association through the application of laws and administrative measures unduly restricting the operation of non-governmental organizations. We defended against attempts by some states to restrict civil society access and participation in OSCE events. U.S. delegates at HDIM engaged bilaterally with NGOs and in NGO-sponsored side-events to demonstrate U.S. support for civil society and to highlight priority concerns in the human dimension.
Combatting Intolerance and Hate Crimes
The United States worked closely with ODIHR, and with the OSCE’s respective Tolerance Representatives, to condemn and combat all forms of intolerance, such as anti-Semitism, anti‑Christian and anti-Muslim sentiment, and racism including anti-Roma discrimination. We denounced and called for the prompt investigation and prosecution of hate-motivated crimes against members of religious, ethnic, and racial groups; LGBT persons; women; persons with disabilities; and migrants. The United States funded experts from the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights to speak at the Supplemental HDIM focused on hate crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice continues to model international best practices by collecting and providing to ODIHR disaggregated hate crime data. The United States also continued to champion the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism by OSCE participating States and ODIHR.
Combating Trafficking in Persons
The United States strongly supported the anti-trafficking work of ODIHR and the OSCE Office of the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. We supported two successful Ministerial decisions related to the prevention of human trafficking, and to child trafficking as well as other forms of sexual exploitation of children. We also supported an extra-budgetary OSCE project to help prevent human trafficking in supply chains, focusing on government procurement of goods and services, which included the development of model guidelines for use by government authorities, and other stakeholders.
OSCE missions in South-Eastern Europe continued to help bring stability and democratic development to their respective host countries and the region. The missions helped facilitate elections, supported local authorities in building strong independent institutions, promoted media freedom, and focused on anti-corruption and anti-money laundering efforts. The OSCE Mission to Moldova continued to coordinate the 5+2 negotiations on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, help implement confidence-building measures, promote a free and pluralistic media environment, and fight trafficking in persons. The United States advocated for increased OSCE engagement in Ukraine, including supporting the Project Coordinator in Ukraine, to help advance reforms and resolve the current crisis.
Failure to reach consensus among participating States on the OSCE office in Yerevan’s mandate forced its closure in 2017, ending all of its programming. The mandate for the OSCE office in Baku expired at the end of 2015. The United States continues to press for meaningful OSCE engagement in the South Caucasus.
OSCE activities in Central Asia strengthened border security, bolstered civil society, promoted democracy and the rule of law, and improved regional trade and transport. The OSCE Border Management and Staff College in Dushanbe trained border guards from throughout the region, including Afghanistan.
OSCE field operations continued in six Balkan countries, focusing largely on developing the rule of law, protecting human rights, democratization, and education. The missions have helped bring security to host countries and contributed to stability across the region.
OSCE Budget and Scales of Contribution
OSCE participating States adopted a 2017 unified budget of €139.0 million (a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 2016 level). This included increases for the Program Office in Astana (1.2 percent), the Center in Ashgabat (3.3 percent), and the Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan (1 percent), as well as a decrease of 1.3 percent for Southeastern European field missions to reflect rightsizing and improved national capacities. Under the 2017 OSCE unified budget, the United States maintained its levels of contribution at 11.5 percent (Standard Scale) and 14 percent (Field Operations Scale).
Advancing U.S. Priorities in 2018 and Beyond
We will implement our specific goals by:
- Continuing to work through the OSCE and its institutions to resolve the crisis in Ukraine in a way that: upholds Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence, prevents Russia from legitimizing its occupation of Crimea; and promotes Ukraine’s long-term security through democratic reform, rule of law, and economic development;
- Seeking full, unfettered, and secure access, especially in Russian-controlled territories of Ukraine, for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission;
- Spotlighting and pressing for international monitoring of Russia’s abuses in Crimea;
- Supporting OSCE field missions, including field presences in Central Asia that can do productive work in all three dimensions of security, and pursuing meaningful OSCE engagement in the South Caucasus;
- Strengthening respect for the exercise – both online and offline – of human rights and the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly;
- Defending and promoting the role of civil society and independent media in advancing OSCE goals, including rejecting efforts to reduce or unduly restrict civil society access to and participation in OSCE activities;
- Increasing the focus on combatting all forms of intolerance, including encouraging states to use the working definition of anti-Semitism and supporting efforts to bolster implementation of the OSCE’s Action Plan on Roma and Sinti;
- Maintaining the focus on transparency, good governance, and anti-corruption in advancing economic and environmental security;
- Achieving concrete steps toward resolving the protracted conflicts in Transnistria and Georgia;
- Seeking measurable progress toward resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict;
- Updating the Vienna Document to reflect the current security environment in Europe;
- Supporting the OSCE’s cross-dimensional, rights-based approach to countering transnational threats and challenges such as terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism, the financing of terrorism, organized crime, threats to cyber security, and trafficking in persons;
- Supporting the Structured Dialogue, including a robust schedule of meetings to create a flexible, productive process that builds understanding without preconceived outcomes, such as the process leading a priori to new arms control discussions.