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22 USC 3005:  Report to Congress Relating to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

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 2018 through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

U.S. Policy Objectives

The OSCE is the primary multilateral organization through which the United States advances the comprehensive political-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions of security and stability in Europe and Central Asia. U.S. engagement in the OSCE helps advance democratic reform and sustainable economic development, address regional and transnational threats, combat human trafficking, prevent and resolve conflicts, support civil society and independent media, promote tolerance and non-discrimination, ensure military transparency and predictability, 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 as stated in the Helsinki Final Act.

In 2018, the United States countered efforts by the Russian Federation and other authoritarian states to undermine foundational OSCE principles and independent OSCE institutions, as well as evade accountability for contravening their OSCE commitments. The United States supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters, and pursued efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts in Georgia and Moldova as well as the long-running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The United States actively worked to modernize the Vienna Document, the premier confidence- and security-building measure among OSCE participating States, and address current security and military realities. The United States achieved consensus on a Ministerial decision on norms for small arms and light weapons and stockpiles of conventional ammunition. In addition to its financial contributions to the OSCE, the United States seconded approximately 120 U.S. citizens to OSCE institutions and supported extra-budgetary projects across all dimensions of security.

Preventing and Resolving Conflicts

The OSCE plays an important role in addressing Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including rejecting as illegitimate Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea and its ongoing 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. The United States is 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 Ukraine, including implementation of OSCE principles and commitments. The SMM seeks to reduce tensions throughout the country and foster peace, stability and security, and it reports regularly on observed violations of key provisions of the Minsk Protocols, such as weapons deployments and ceasefire violations. Russia denies the SMM access to occupied Crime4 and Russia-led forces block, harass, and occasionally threaten SMM observers in eastern Ukraine.

The SMM plays a key role in mitigating the appalling humanitarian situation in the Donbas by coordinating local ceasefires that allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and repairs to key infrastructure. In 2018, the OSCE began training SMM personnel to identify and mitigate potential environmental threats caused by the conflict.

The United States continues to press Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, end its support for its proxies in the Donbas, and return control of Crimea to Ukraine. We have called on 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, including Crimea. Following the death in April 2017 of an American SMM member, the United States worked with partners to strengthen the SMM’s management practices, produce comprehensive guidelines to ensure greater professionalism and resilience within the difficult environment, and identify strong candidates to fill leadership positions

The United States supports OSCE’s work on Europe’s protracted conflicts and its leading role in key frameworks: the Geneva International Discussions (GID), which address the security and humanitarian consequences of the 2008 conflict in Georgia; the 5+2 talks to settle the Transnistrian conflict; and the Minsk Group, which works to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. While Russia continues to obstruct major progress in the GID, the United States rallied Canada and European states to support Georgia in light of Russia’s continued occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia through strong statements &om the OSCE “Friends of Georgia” group on the l0th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Georgia and at the December 2018 OSCE Ministerial in Milan. We also supported OSCE efforts that yielded significant progress on confidence building measures in the Transnistrian settlement process, particularly regarding the “package of eight” socio-economic deliverables, and continued to push for resolution of core political-military issues. The United States, as a Minsk Group Co-Chair, strongly supported Minsk Group activities to advance the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Notably, the Minsk Group Co-Chairs organized three meetings of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in 2018, including in Milan in December, where the Ministers and Co-Chairs issued a joint statement affirming their commitment to work intensively toward a just and lasting peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to take steps to prepare the populations for peace.

The United States continues to press for modernization of the Vienna Document to increase military transparency and predictability. Before the OSCE Ministerial in December, we built support for initial updates to the Vienna Document that would increase military transparency by lowering the thresholds for notifications and observations of military exercises and increase the size of evaluation teams. Although OSCE participating States did not reach a decision at the Ministerial Council in Milan that would have adopted these measures, they were strongly supported by NATO and EU states. The United States seeks to leverage that momentum to pursue these measures and more substantive updates to the Vienna Document in 2019.

The Structured Dialogue (SD) on current and future challenges and risks to security in the OSCE area, which was launched in April2017, serves as a unique forum for frank discussion on security issues important to OSCE participating States. SD discussions have addressed issues in all OSCE dimensions, focusing on participating States’ key sources of threat perception. Among the topics discussed in 2018 were violations of international legal and political commitments, including concerns about Russia’s multifaceted campaign to destabilize eastern Ukraine and Crimea; the protracted conflicts; migration; terrorism; cyber warfare and malign activities; and the risk of military incidents in light of the increase in military activities since 2014. We want deepened SD discussions to continue into 2019, driven by the concerns identified by participating States, with no predetermined outcomes beyond enhancing regional stability.

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 improve the capacity of participating States to interdict the flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) to and from Syria and northern Iraq; advancing implementation of OSCE cyber confidence-building measures; and establishing a new cybersecurity capacity-building project for the Western Balkans and Ukraine. We assisted participating States in implementing relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, particularly UNSCR 2396 on addressing returning and relocating FTFs. 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, and strengthened criminal justice sector responses to terrorism in OSCE states.

Promoting Economic Development and Environmental Issues

The United States supported two economic decisions at the December Ministerial in Milan that encourage participating States to develop human capital in the digital economy and to cooperate to maximize the benefits and minimize the security risks associated with the digital transition. American experts promoted U.S. policies and values as presenters at economic and environmental dimension events throughout 2018. The United States supported the OSCE Office of the Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities in its efforts to build the capacity of participating States to combat corruption, money laundering, and terrorism finance. We continue to leverage the OSCE’s economic and environmental dimension to promote good governance and anti-corruption, and we funded two extra-budgetary projects to advance these objectives.

Advancing Human Rights and Democracy

The United States works closely with OSCE institutions—the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the 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), the United States advocates 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 invited ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and seconded Americans to observe seven elections in other participating States. U.S. extra-budgetary funding for ODIHR supports human rights and governance projects, including projects on human rights, election observation, and gender equality. The United States also organized a two-week exchange program for eleven participants focused on NGO sustainability and resilience.

Defending Civil Society

The United States continues to champion the essential role human rights defenders and civil society groups play in strengthening the human dimension of security. We called out states contravening OSCE commitments on the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly and association through the application of laws and administrative measures unduly restricting the operation of non-governmental organizations. We blocked attempts by some states to increase restrictions on civil society access to and participation in OSCE events. U.S. delegates at HDIM engaged bilaterally with NGOs and participated in side events with NGOs, including events hosted by the United States, to demonstrate U.S. support for civil society and to highlight priority concerns. The United States funded and facilitated the participation of human rights defenders at HDIM and other OSCE events.

Combating Intolerance and Hate Crimes

The United States works closely with ODIHR and with the OSCE’s Representatives on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination 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, LGBTI persons, women, persons with disabilities, and migrants. An expert from the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights spoke at two ODIHR-organized conferences 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 championed 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 supported the anti-trafficking work of ODIHR and the OSCE Office of the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (OSR). The United States funds the OSR deputy director and the ODIHR advisor for anti-trafficking issues. In 2018, the United States successfully nominated a candidate for OSR deputy director. At the Milan Ministerial, the United States supported a successful decision related to strengthening efforts to address child trafficking, including of unaccompanied minors, which builds on the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly decisions related to child trafficking that the United States previously sponsored. The Department of State continued to fund an extra-budgetary OSCE project to prevent human trafficking in supply chains, focusing on government procurement of goods and services. Another extra-budgetary project updated the Handbook on National Referral Mechanisms.

Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists

The United States strongly supports efforts at the OSCE to promote media freedom and the work of the OSCE Office of the Representative on Media Freedom (RFoM). We supported the Milan Ministerial decision on the safety of journalists, the fust Ministerial-level decision supporting media freedom to be adopted since the establishment of the RFoM. We provided financial support for an RFoM project on the Safety of Female Journalists Online.

Regional Objectives and Priorities

Eastern Europe

The United States continued to support the work of OSCE institutions and field missions to resolve the current conflict in eastern Ukraine fomented by Russia and to promote democratic reform, rule of law, and economic development in Ukraine. The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine serves as the world’s “eyes and ears” in the conflict zone and helps to mitigate the humanitarian effect of Russia’s continued aggression in eastern Ukraine. The United States has also supported efforts by the OSCE’s High Commissioner for National Minorities to address concerns about the treatment of minorities.

In November 2018, the United States joined 15 other participating States in invoking the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism in response to the Russian Federation’s failure to address credible reports of extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, and other abuses against LGBTI persons, human rights defenders, and others in the Republic of Chechnya. The resulting expert-level report confirmed the serious human rights violations and abuses and provided specific recommendations to Russian and Chechen authorities.

The OSCE Mission to Moldova coordinated the 5+2 negotiations on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, helped implement confidence-building measures, promoted a free and pluralistic media environment, and combatted trafficking in persons.

South Caucasus

The Government of Azerbaijan closed the OSCE Office in Baku in 2015. Azerbaijan blocked consensus to renew the mandate for the OSCE Office in Armenia, forcing its closure in 20l7. The United States continues to press for meaningful OSCE engagement in the South Caucasus and funded an extra-budgetary project to promote engagement in Armenia across the full spectrum of OSCE commitments.

The Balkans

OSCE field operations continued in six Balkan countries, focusing largely on strengthening the rule of law, protecting human rights, promoting media freedom, facilitating elections, enshrining democratization, and developing education that bridges existing divides and prepares youth to address current and future needs. The missions have helped bring security to host countries and contributed to stability across the region. The United States funded several projects to promote cybersecurity, prevent/counter violent extremism and radicalization, and combat corruption, organized crime and money laundering, and trafficking in persons.

Central Asia

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. The United States provided an extra-budgetary contribution to the OSCE to support efforts in the Kyrgyz Republic to eliminate the threat from a stockpile of toxic chemicals. In addition, we provided funds to the OSCE Academy in Bishkek to educate and train the next generation of leaders from Central Asia and Afghanistan.

U.S. Department of State

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