Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Ranking Minority Member - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our witnesses this morning.

Having traveled to both Vukovar, during the 1991 Serbian assault on that city, and the Caucasus, in the weeks following the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, I have seen the terrible burden borne by people caught in these conflicts. In Georgia other members and I visited an IDP camp and met people who had lost all of their possessions and had been separated from their families. Thousands of these people still live in precarious conditions, unable to return to their homes due to a lack of adequate security or the fact that their residences were sacked and burned to the ground. Sadly, this is an ongoing problem throughout the OSCE region—people, targeted because of their faith or ethnicity, have been forced to flee their homes and villages, and live as internally displaced persons or international refugees for months and even years.

While ethnic tensions played a role in the origins of these conflicts, Russia, whose actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter and OSCE principles, has been a big part of the problem, stoking conflict throughout the OSCE region--throughout the former Yugoslavia, in Georgia and in other regions of the Caucasus, in the breakaway region of Moldova and the Baltic states.

And although the OSCE, the US, and the European Union have been actively engaged in seeking a peaceful resolution of these conflicts, the disastrous outcome of so many of them, above all the genocide at Srebrenica, and the failure to resolve other conflicts, such as in Moldova and over the future constitutional status of Bosnia, forces us to ask whether a new approach to conflict mitigation is necessary thirty-five years after the Helsinki Final Act. Through the Corfu Security dialogue, the OSCE is engaged in a assessment of its comprehensive security concept and the tools available to address conflict.

Thank you once again, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing our witness’s views on these critical concerns and their recommendations as to resolving the many protracted conflicts that destroy or threaten the lives of so many people living in OSCE states.