Report to Congress Related to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 22 USC 3005
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 2020 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 our policy goals in the political-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions of security throughout Europe and Eurasia. U.S. engagement in the OSCE in these three dimensions helps: prevent and resolve conflicts; address regional and transnational threats; rebuild and enhance military transparency and predictability; promote sustainable economic and environmental policies; advance democratic reforms; defend human rights and fundamental freedoms; support civil society and independent media; and promote tolerance and non-discrimination.
In 2020, the United States worked closely with our allies and partners in OSCE fora to: call out Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine and press Russia to implement its Minsk Agreement commitments and end its occupation of Crimea; defend democratic principles and spotlight serious human rights violations and abuses, including by invoking with 16 other participating States the OSCE’s “Moscow Mechanism” over the violent crackdown in Belarus following the fraudulent August 9 presidential election; reaffirm the importance of achieving a diplomatic solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan via the Minsk Group process; bolster diplomatic support for Georgian territorial integrity; and encourage the organization to identify and track the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across all three OSCE dimensions of security. The United States also joined consensus on a slate of candidates to fill the leadership positions of the four main OSCE institutions.
Preventing and Resolving Conflicts
The OSCE plays an important role in pushing back on Russia’s attempts to undermine 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 OSCE-led Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), as well as Normandy format consultations. 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 United States welcomed the lower levels of ceasefire violations and civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine that resulted from a July 2020 agreement negotiated under OSCE auspices at the TCG. However, Ukrainians continue to die on Ukrainian soil as a result of Russia-led aggression, and in its weekly Permanent Council (PC) interventions, the United States continued 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.
The United States supports the OSCE’s work on Europe’s protracted conflicts and its role in: the Geneva International Discussions (GID), which address the security and humanitarian consequences of Russia’s 2008 war in Georgia; the 5+2 talks to settle the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova; 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 issue a robust joint statement at the OSCE Ministerial Council (MC) reaffirming their support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in light of Russia’s continued occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
We also supported OSCE efforts to yield progress on confidence-building measures in the Transnistrian settlement process in Moldova, and we actively advocated for the OSCE to engage Russia on unsanctioned military activities related to the Kobasna munitions storage facility and to implement its commitments from the 1999 Istanbul Summit to withdraw all of its troops.
OSCE foreign ministers released a 5+2 statement at the 2020 OSCE Ministerial that reiterated support for Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, with a special status for Transnistria.
In 2020, Azerbaijani military forces, with Turkish support, reestablished Azerbaijani control over four territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh which had since 1994 been controlled by separatists supported by Armenia. After 44 days of fighting, which resulted in significant military and civilian casualties, a Russian-brokered ceasefire arrangement signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan on November 9 resulted in the peaceful transfer of control over three additional territories to Azerbaijan, as well as the introduction of Russian peacekeepers to the region. Despite Azerbaijan’s claims to the contrary, the arrangement did not define Nagorno- Karabakh’s current or final status. The United States, along with France and Russia, jointly led Minsk Group Co-Chair activities to actively engage the leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan to establish a ceasefire, allow humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh, humanely treat and return all those captured, and pursue a lasting and sustainable peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Countering Transnational Threats
The United States supported the OSCE’s efforts to help participating States’ policymakers, particularly in southeastern Europe, develop with non-governmental actors effective rehabilitation and reintegration programs for foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). During the joint OSCE-United Nations Office of Counterterrorism conference on FTF challenges in February and the OSCE-wide Counterterrorism Conference in September, the United States delivered strong calls to action on the repatriation of returning FTFs and warned of the danger of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Terrorism (REMT). The appointment of a U.S. citizen to head the OSCE’s Action Against Terrorism Unit in 2020 better positions the United States to support and further the OSCE’s counterterrorism initiatives.
In addition to its counterterrorism work, the OSCE fostered international cooperation in the fight against organized crime. At the virtual 2020 OSCE MC, participating States (pS) adopted a declaration to strengthen national coordination and international cooperation to counter transnational organized crime. The United States also supported OSCE’s cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in helping pS combat cybercrime.
Enhancing Military Transparency and Predictability
The United States continued to press for modernization of the Vienna Document to begin to rebuild trust and predictability through additional transparency and verification measures covering the participating States’ armed forces and their major equipment systems. At the 2020 OSCE Ministerial Council, 45 participating States, including the United States, subscribed to a joint statement calling for substantial progress on the process of modernization by the 2021 OSCE Ministerial. Russia has blocked negotiations on modernization of the Vienna Document, insisting NATO first modify its force posture in Eastern Europe.
The OSCE Structured Dialogue (SD) continues to serve as a unique forum for frank discussion on security issues important to OSCE participating States, including concerns arising from conventional military operations, as well as noncompliance with arms control agreements and OSCE founding principles. SD sessions in 2020 focused on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on military activities, arms control, and confidence and security-building measures, as well as a discussion on hybrid activities, which remains among the most critical threats faced by OSCE participating States. The June 23-25 Annual Security Review Conference reinforced these themes, with the majority of pS raising concern over the Ukraine conflict, the need to keep Europe’s protracted conflicts high on the OSCE agenda, the protection of civilians and respect for human rights, and the call for Vienna Document modernization.
Economic and Environmental Dimension
Promoting Economic Development and Environmental Issues
U.S. experts promoted U.S. policies and values as presenters at economic and environmental dimension events throughout 2020. The United States supported a number of projects under 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 organized crime. At the 2020 MC, the United States joined consensus to adopt a decision to combat corruption through digitalization and increased transparency.
Advancing Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law
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. The United States also used the weekly PC Meeting and our MC intervention to call out participating States for their human rights violations. At the 2020 MC, participating States adopted a Ministerial Decision on preventing and eradicating torture in the OSCE region.
After the fraudulent August 9 election and violent crackdown in Belarus, the United States joined 16 participating states in invoking the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism, which culminated in the release of a detailed, damning report on the Belarusian authorities’ violations and abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens. The United States continues to urge the Belarusian authorities to implement the recommendations of the Moscow Mechanism report. In the Ministerial Meeting and in the PC, we relentlessly called on Belarusian authorities to: end the violence against their own citizens; free all political prisoners and detainees; support the demand of the Belarusian people for a free and fair election under international observation; and accept the OSCE Chairman-in-Office’s offer to facilitate a national dialogue with the political opposition.
The United States advocated strongly to hold the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in September 2020, even if this required virtual modalities to take account of public health concerns. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Permanent Council ultimately decided that the 2020 HDIM could not take place. In lieu of the HDIM, the OSCE hosted a human rights webinar series on timely issues ranging from combating racism to democratic law- making and defending human rights activists. We will work closely with the 2021 Swedish Chairmanship to ensure a successful 2021 HDIM.
Despite the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States sent U.S. citizens to observe elections in six participating states, and we facilitated a limited OSCE election observation mission to observe the 2020 U.S. general election. U.S. extra-budgetary funding for ODIHR supported human rights and governance projects, including projects on election processes, gender equality, and strengthening democratic institutions.
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 others who suffered repression for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, religion or belief, peaceful assembly and association. The United States and our democratic allies and partners called out participating States that used COVID-19 as a cover for cracking down on civil society and independent media.
Combating Intolerance and Hate Crimes
The United States works closely with ODIHR and with the Chair-in-Office’s (CiO) Special Representatives on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination to condemn and combat all forms of intolerance and discrimination against members of religious, ethnic, and racial minorities, LGBTI persons, women, persons with disabilities, and migrants. In 2020, the Department funded an extra-budgetary ODIHR project that built on the successful Turning Words Into Action program to combat anti-Semitism and expanded ODIHR’s efforts to address other forms of intolerance.
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. The Special Representative is an American secondee and assists participating States in developing and implementing anti-trafficking strategies.
Promoting Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists
The United States supports OSCE efforts, including the work of the RFoM, to promote media freedom online and offline and the safety of journalists. At the OSCE MC and PC, we raised concerns over Russia’s recent efforts to clamp down on freedom of expression for members of the press by significantly expanding the scope of so-called “foreign agent” rules, rendering individual journalists vulnerable to designation and increasing government censorship tools.
Regional Objectives and Priorities
The United States supported the work of OSCE institutions and field missions to mediate and monitor Russia-perpetuated conflicts, including in eastern Ukraine, and to promote democratic reform, rule of law, and economic development. 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 remove and dispose of 460 tons of hazardous chemical waste through the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine.
Although there were no 5+2 negotiations on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSCE Mission to Moldova and the CiO’s Special Representative helped implement confidence-building measures, facilitated freedom of movement for medical personnel to respond to health needs, promoted a free and pluralistic media environment, and combated trafficking in persons.
At the 2020 MC, we co-sponsored side events on Belarus and Ukraine. The Belarus side event focused on supporting the people of Belarus in their efforts towards accountability and their demands for a democratic future. We and the co-sponsors called on the Belarusian authorities to live up to their OSCE commitments and international human rights obligations. The Ukraine side event focused on coordinating and elevating international efforts to end Russia’s occupation of Crimea.
As a Minsk Group Co-Chair and in our national capacity, the United States pressed Armenia and Azerbaijan in the recent 44-day armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh not to deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law, to exchange all detainees expeditiously, and to treat all detainees in their custody humanely and all remains in their custody respectfully. We continue to engage to find a lasting resolution to the conflict.
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 United States funded training courses on countering terrorist financing and improving electoral processes. We also demonstrated our commitment to the Balkans region by seconding two Foreign Service Officers to lead the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and serve as deputy head of mission in the OSCE Mission in Serbia.
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 Staff College in Dushanbe trained border guards from throughout the region, including Afghanistan. The United States helped fund extra-budgetary projects to assist women’s centers in Tajikistan, support the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, remove dangerous stockpiles of toxic Soviet-era rocket fuel in Kyrgyzstan, and build the capacity of all five Central Asian states to combat cybercrime.