Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 224

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held its year-end conference on November 29–30 in Madrid. Under Russian pressure and with the collaboration of the Spanish chairmanship, the organization registered new setbacks from which it may no longer be able to recover.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chose the final day of the Madrid conference to issue in Moscow a decree on suspending Russia’s participation in the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) as of December 12. The Russian suspension was supposed to go into effect in any case on that date, but some Western governments were working to reach a ”package deal” with Russia at the OSCE conference in Madrid. However, Putin timed his November 30 decree deliberately to humiliate the OSCE, the custodian organization of the CFE Treaty.

The Russian suspension seeks to force international ratification of the 1999 adapted CFE Treaty and its entry into force, despite Russia’s noncompliance with its own obligations under the same 1999 documents to withdraw its remaining troops from Georgia and Moldova.

The OSCE’s Chairman in Office, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Angel Moratinos, had tried to break that linkage ahead of the year-end conference, so as to facilitate the Russian-desired ratification during the Madrid event. On the final day of the conference, the Spanish Chairmanship proposed this draft decision for the ministerial declaration, “We encourage all parties to intensify their efforts and work cooperatively aiming at an early entry into force of the Agreement of Adaptation.” With this stroke of his pen, Moratinos broke ranks with the common Western policy of conditioning the treaty’s ratification on Russia s fulfillment of its obligations in Georgia and Moldova.

NATO responded with a statement read by Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Petras Vaitiekunas on behalf of the alliance’s 26 member countries. The collective statement urged Russia to fulfill its 1999 obligations to Georgia and Moldova while continuing the dialogue with NATO on preserving the CFE treaty.

For the fifth consecutive year, the OSCE proved unable to adopt a final political declaration or regional documents on the unresolved conflicts at the year-end meeting. Russia withheld consent from — that is, threatened to veto — draft documents that would ultimately have been acceptable to almost all other countries after bargaining. In this regard as well, the Spanish Chairmanship broke ranks with collective NATO and EU positions to accommodate Moscow. The ministerial declaration’s final draft on November 30 merely called for “efforts to resolve protracted conflicts in the OSCE area that have a negative impact on peace and stability, in accordance with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. We affirm the validity of all agreed formats and negotiating mechanisms.” This wording was proposed without any alternative.

As recently as November 28, the Chairmanship was still circulating at least pro forma an alternative wording, proposed by the countries that face unresolved conflicts on their territories and endorsed by many others

“We remain deeply concerned about the persistence of unresolved conflicts in the OSCE area, which constitute a threat to peace and stability. We express our support to international mediation efforts … on the basis of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of internationally recognized borders and reintegration of uncontrolled territories into the states that they are part of, and call upon all states, international and regional organizations to effectively contribute within their competences to this process.” However, the Chairmanship eliminated this alternative from its final draft of the ministerial declaration.

The Chairmanship’s November 30 draft, retained from its previously circulated documents, is a pale reflection of the situation on the ground and fails to evidence any sense of urgency by the OSCE in addressing the conflicts. The Spanish text implicitly follows Russia’s position on retaining the existing conflict-resolution formats. It even omits the otherwise indispensable reference to territorial integrity — probably the first-ever omission of this type by the leader of a major international organization for the sake of a Russia signature on a final document.

To demonstrate their displeasure with Kosovo’s upcoming independence and international recognition, Russia and Serbia stonewalled the routine one-year extension of the OSCE’s mission in Kosovo at this conference. On cue, the OSCE’s Chairmanship dropped the relevant reference from the final declaration’s draft. This merely read, “The OSCE stands ready to remain engaged in South Eastern Europe.”

Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gela Bezhuashvili welcomed the closure of two Russian bases — Batumi and Akhalkalaki — in Georgia, but insisted on closure of the Gudauta base as well. Terming the current peacekeeping and mediating formats antiquated and inequitable, Bezhuashvili called on international organizations to initiate a comprehensive review of these formats with a view to their transformation.

Moldova’s minister of foreign affairs Andrei Stratan, challenged the “OSCE to demonstrate its viability by contributing effectively to the resolution of frozen conflicts.” Stratan called for “unconditional, complete, transparent fulfillment in good faith of the commitments made by Russia at the 1999 Istanbul summit for withdrawal of Russian military forces from Moldova and Georgia.” He welcomed the recent U.S. proposal for an international mission to supervise the existing “peacekeeping” operation in Moldova, but called for immediate transformation of the “so-called peacekeeping” operation into a multinational civil mission under OSCE mandate. ”

(Documents of the OSCE’s year-end conference, Madrid, November 29-30)