Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 225

A consensus-based decision that Lithuania would chair the OSCE in 2011 became the only bright spot on the organization’s horizon at its year-end meeting in Madrid (see EDM, December 4). Other organizational issues, however, increasingly jeopardize the OSCE’s viability, after robbing it of effectiveness.

Russia (with a few allies in tow this year, for the first time) threatens to continue eroding the OSCE’s substance from within, unless the organization aligns with Russian security policies in Eurasia, in which case Moscow would help “strengthen” the OSCE. Russia is interested in the OSCE becoming a full-fledged international organization with a military-political dimension, in order to counter pose it to some of NATO’s roles.

At the Madrid meeting, Russia called for a “speedy transformation of the OSCE into a full-fledged regional organization.” Russia and the other six member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) proposed a decision on establishing a high-level expert group to work out a Charter of the OSCE, with a view to adopting the Charter at the 2008 year-end meeting in Helsinki. The Russia-led group also submitted a first draft of a charter.

Countries of the enlarged Euro-Atlantic community had worked out a delicately balanced compromise on this issue in the run-up to Madrid. They agreed to create an informal expert group to draft merely a convention on the OSCE’s international legal personality and capacity, asking in return that the draft charter be watered down and that it be presented merely for consideration, rather than adoption, at the 2008 year-end meeting. Based on this understanding, the informal expert group finalized a draft convention on the legal personality and capacity for the Madrid meeting. There, however, Russia submitted its draft Charter and insisted on kick-starting the one-year process of adopting an OSCE Charter. As a net result, both processes were aborted at Madrid.

The organization is threatened with losing its biggest field mission, the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK). The Serbian government apparently counts on Russian support for closing OMIK if Kosovo becomes independent of Serbia. At the Madrid meeting, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic (who is regarded as a moderate) vehemently condemned OMIK and refused a routine prolongation of its mandate for another year, pending the outcome of current negotiations (the Troika process) on Kosovo’s status. For their part, the United States and all European Union and NATO member and aspirant countries praised OMIK’s work and called for a decision to prolong that Mission’s mandate at Madrid for another year, without further delay.

Thus, due to the OSCE’s veto system, OMIK’s fate hangs in the air at the year’s end. That Mission’s mandate includes protection of Kosovo’s ethnic and religious minorities and administrative capacity building for municipalities in Kosovo. Those functions answer to the interests of Serbs, both as a minority in Kosovo and as inhabitants of self-governing municipalities in Serb-populated enclaves. Nevertheless, Serbia blocked an OSCE decision to prolong the mandate and even vetoed an OSCE statement (short of a decision) that would have commended OMIK’s work.

Unsurprisingly, considering Russia’s influence within the organization, the OSCE is moving little by little toward dealing directly with the CSTO. Russia seeks to open the way for the CSTO to enter into direct contacts with international organizations as a form of acceptance and potential international recognition of that Moscow-led alliance. Thus far, only the OSCE has become involved in such contacts. CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha was invited to speak at the Madrid meeting after the OSCE’s Secretary-General, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, attended the CIS and CSTO concurrent summits in October in Dushanbe. The Russian general managed to put the French diplomat on the spot in Madrid by hailing the contacts with Brichambaut “during CSTO’s Dushanbe summit.”

In tune with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, Bordyuzha also called for turning the OSCE into a full-fledged international organization and enhancing its military-political dimension. In a post-Madrid intervention, Bordyuzha suggested that the OSCE Secretary-General [who is only a chief administrator] ought to have clearly defined powers, as does the CSTO Secretary-General (Vremya novostey, December 4).

The OSCE assists the pilot program for training Afghan anti-drug police in the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry’s training center at Domodedovo near Moscow. In his speech at Madrid, Bordyuzha informed the OSCE that the Domodedovo police training center has received the status of a CSTO institution. He also called for consultations on anti-terrorism and conflict-prevention, initially on the expert level, between the OSCE and CSTO. Moscow hopes through such tactics to draw the OSCE into de facto recognition of the CSTO.

Russia seeks to involve the OSCE alongside the CSTO in broad international efforts against drug-trafficking on Afghanistan’s borders with Central Asian countries. Moscow wants the OSCE to cooperate with the CSTO countries as a group, on an organization-to-organization basis, thus in effect recognizing the CSTO. For their part, European Union and NATO countries would only cooperate with CSTO member countries in the latter’s national capacities, without going through Moscow for such cooperation and avoiding any semblance of recognizing the CSTO.

(Documents of the OSCE’s year-end meeting in Madrid, November 29-30, December 1; see EDM, October 31, November 2, 16, December 4, 5)