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, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 3005, discusses U.S. policy objectives advanced in 2019 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 throughout Europe and Eurasia. U.S. engagement in the OSCE helps advance democratic reforms 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 upholding the foundational Helsinki Final Act principles and comprehensive approach to security.
In 2019 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, Moldova, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The United States worked to modernize the Vienna Document, the premier confidence- and security-building measure among OSCE participating states, and to address current security and military threat perceptions. In addition to its financial contributions to the OSCE, the United States seconded approximately 100 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 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 (TCG), in which the OSCE is an important player. The United States is 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. The SMM seeks to reduce tensions and foster peace, stability, and security. It reports regularly on observed contraventions of key provisions of the Minsk agreements, such as weapons deployments and ceasefire violations. Russia denies the SMM access to occupied Crimea, and Russia-led forces block, harass, and occasionally threaten SMM observers in eastern Ukraine, including by aiming fire and signals interference at SMM unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are critical for enhancing the SMM’s physical security and monitoring capacity. 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.
The United States presses Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, end its support for its proxies in the Donbas, and return control of Crimea to Ukraine. We called on Russia to order the forces it arms, trains, funds, leads, and fights alongside to cease their harassment of SMM monitors and ensure full, unrestricted access for the SMM throughout territories not controlled by the Ukrainian government, including Crimea. The United States is working with the SMM and TCG to achieve the goals laid out in the December 9 Normandy Quartet Summit in Paris, including new disengagement areas and crossing points across the Line of Contact.
The United States supports the OSCE’s work on Europe’s protracted conflicts, including: its role in 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 and its proxies continue to obstruct major progress in the GID, the United States rallied partner states to support Georgia in light of Russia’s continued occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. At the December 2019 OSCE ministerial in Bratislava, the “Friends of Georgia” issued a joint statement rejecting the legitimacy of the “elections” held by de facto authorities in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and reaffirming their support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We also supported OSCE efforts that yielded progress on confidence-building measures in the Transnistrian settlement process, particularly the “package of eight” socio-economic deliverables, and continued to encourage resolution of core political-military issues. OSCE foreign ministers released a 5+2 statement at the OSCE ministerial that reiterated support for Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders with a special status for Transnistria. The United States, as a Minsk Group co-chair country alongside France and Russia, jointly led Minsk Group activities to advance the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Notably, the co- chairs organized five meetings of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in 2019, including consultations in Washington, DC in June, the first time in many years that such talks were held in the United States. The co-chairs issued a joint statement at the OSCE ministerial encouraging the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers to continue meeting in 2020 and facilitate negotiations at the highest level under co-chair auspices and affirming their commitment to work intensively toward a just and lasting peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The United States continued to press for modernization of the Vienna Document to increase military transparency and predictability. We co-sponsored a unitary Vienna Document modernization proposal that was introduced during the October 23, 2019 OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) Security Dialogue, together with 32 other participating states. The new modernization package, which streamlined previous years’ proposals, would mitigate concerns about so-called “snap” exercises, address risks associated with military accidents, increase military transparency by lowering the thresholds for notifications and observations of military exercises, and increase the size of evaluation teams. Although the new proposal rejuvenated momentum for Vienna Document modernization, OSCE participating states did not reach a decision at the December 2019 Ministerial Council in Bratislava that would have adopted these measures. Russia alone reiterated its opposition to Vienna Document modernization, while NATO Allies and partners expressed strong support. The United States seeks to leverage that momentum to pursue substantive updates to the Vienna Document in 2020.
The Structured Dialogue (SD) on current and future challenges and risks to security in the OSCE area, which was launched in April 2017, 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 2019 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 other malign activities; and the risk of military incidents in light of the increase in military activities in the region since 2014. The United States pressed for continued discussions on hybrid tactics, which undermine security throughout the OSCE region. We want deepened SD discussions to continue into 2020, driven by the concerns identified by participating states.
Countering Transnational Threats
Under Slovakia as the 2019 Chair-in-Office, the comprehensive OSCE approach to counterterrorism focused on: developing security measures to prevent, interdict, and prosecute terrorists while respecting human rights and the rule of law; promoting a whole-of-society approach with close engagement with civil society and the private sector; using referral mechanisms and pre-criminal interventions to prevent violent extremism; and emphasizing rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders. The United States supported the OSCE’s Leaders against Intolerance and Violent Extremism program to empower local networks in southeastern Europe and strengthen home-grown civil society work on preventing violent extremism. The United States also promoted U.S. best practices of taking appropriate law enforcement action against criminal activities online and using a “whole of government” approach to strengthen and expand voluntary collaboration with private sector technology companies to address online terrorist content. OSCE staff actively participated in global and regional efforts supported by the United States through the International Institute for Justice and Global Counterterrorism Forum.
Promoting Economic Development and Environmental Issues
In the year leading up to the December Ministerial in Bratislava, the United States led the conversation on energy security, calling out Russia for its coercive use of energy and urging participating states to pursue diversification. American experts promoted U.S. policies and values as presenters at economic and environmental dimension events throughout 2019. 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, organized crime, and terrorist financing, which are topics the incoming Albanian Chairmanship identified as priorities for 2020. We continue to leverage the OSCE’s economic and environmental dimension to promote good governance, anti-corruption, and energy security 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, the role of civil society, and tolerance and non-discrimination, and we call out governments for their human rights violations and abuses. The United States sent Americans to observe eight elections in seven participating states. U.S. extra-budgetary funding for ODIHR supports human rights and governance projects, including projects on election observation, tolerance, and gender equality.
Defending Civil Society
The United States champions the essential role human rights defenders and civil society groups play in strengthening the human dimension of security. We highlighted the cases of political prisoners and called out states for contravening OSCE commitments on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, including through laws and administrative measures that unduly restrict non-governmental organizations. We also opposed attempts by some states to unduly restrict civil society’s access to and participation in OSCE events. U.S. delegates at HDIM engaged bilaterally with NGOs and hosted and participated in side events to demonstrate U.S. support for civil society and 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, including anti-Semitism, anti-Christian and anti-Muslim sentiment, and racism, such as 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. Experts from the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights spoke at an ODIHR-organized conference on hate crimes and an ODIHR- organized side event at a UN meeting. 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 championed the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism by OSCE participating States and ODIHR and participated in the OSCE Chair-in-Office’s Conference on Combatting Anti-Semitism. The Department funded extra-budgetary OSCE projects that built on the successful Turning Words Into Action program to combat anti-Semitism. Additional extra-budgetary programs enhanced the capacities of the Kosovo agencies and special prosecution to address hate crimes.
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 2019, the United States successfully nominated a candidate for Special Representative.
Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists
The United States supports OSCE efforts to promote media freedom and the RFOM. We pressed states at HDIM and the Bratislava Ministerial to implement their commitments relating to the safety of journalists. We organized a five-day reporting tour to Vienna and Kyiv for journalists from Central Asia and a two-week exchange program to the United States focused on identifying disinformation and countering it in ways that respect freedom of expression.
Regional Objectives and Priorities
The United States supported the work of OSCE institutions and field missions to resolve the ongoing Russia-instigated conflict in eastern Ukraine 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. In addition to our budgetary support of the OSCE, the United States made a voluntary contribution to the SMM and provided extra-budgetary funding to five OSCE projects, including providing UAVs and strengthening local government integrity. The United States has also supported efforts by the OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities to address concerns about Ukraine’s treatment of minorities.
In April 2019, the United States held senior-level meetings in Washington with Austrian professor Wolfgang Benedek, the head of the 2018 “Moscow Mechanism” fact-finding mission regarding 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 its Republic of Chechnya. We call for an end to impunity in Chechnya in the OSCE Permanent Council, and we and fellow Mechanism-invoking states jointly hosted a side event on the issue at the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM).
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.
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 2017. The United States continues to press for meaningful OSCE engagement in the South Caucasus.
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 enhance security in host countries and contributed to stability across the region. The United States funded projects to combat corruption, organized crime, and money laundering, prosecute hate crimes, and conduct expert workshops on protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks.
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 helped fund an extra-budgetary project promoting freedom of religious belief in Uzbekistan.