Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Ms. Elizabeth Pryor
Senior Advisor - Helsinki Commission


One of the greatest assets of the OSCE has been its comprehensive definition of security. The Helsinki Accords were visionary in stating thirty years ago that true security is not based on guarded borders and stockpiles of weapons, but on respect for human rights, good governance and transparency. By promoting democratic change, the OSCE was instrumental in ending the Cold War and the division of Europe. It is still engaged in developing measures that can help societies be freer and more prosperous.

But the OSCE’s contribution to more traditional military security in Europe is also significant and should not be overlooked. During the suspicious days of the Cold War, some considered this aspect of the OSCE and its CSCE predecessor as tainted by Soviet efforts to manipulate the military situation in Europe and divide the United States from its allies. Western diplomacy, therefore, often downplayed the military aspects of OSCE’s work in order to maintain a balance with what was being done, or not being done, in the field of human rights.

The substantive reality, however, is different. While supporting the Human Dimension, the United States and its allies also pressed for commitments that would enhance European security in modest but very concrete ways. The confidence- and security-building measures that formed the core of the OSCE’s work did overcome barriers of secrecy and diminish the threat of surprise attack. Measures such as advance notification of troop maneuvers and observation of military exercises have become such a part of our way of interacting that we too frequently take such transparency for granted. In the early 1980s, OSCE negotiations were, for a few tense years, the only place where East and West were sitting at the table to discuss security matters. The 1986 Stockholm Document then ushered in a new era of effective, mutually beneficial arms control. A key provision provided for an intrusive on-site inspection regime that proved essential for subsequent treaties, including the verification regime of the INF Treaty. These provisions were further consolidated by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), in 1990, negotiated under the auspices of the CSCE.

OSCE capitalized on the reunification of Europe throughout the 1990s. First they expanded the degree of military openness, then encouraged further reductions in force levels and equipment, and placed military institutions under democratic civilian control. In the latter part of the decade, the OSCE also served as a forum for addressing specific post-Dayton threats to security in the Balkans, the scene of the greatest fighting and worst violation of Helsinki principles in Europe since World War II.

Today the global security picture has changed from what it was ten years ago or even two and a half years ago. Peacemaking and peacekeeping have altered the nature of our military alliances. There is a growing realization of the multidimensional nature of the challenges that confront us. We have been engaged in a exacting war on terrorism. The threat of weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of weapons, large and small, and related technology draws needed attention. And several commitments, which would greatly enhance security and stability in some parts of the OSCE region, remain unimplemented. These were freely undertaken and we hope to see full compliance with them soon.

The purpose of our briefing today is to examine how the OSCE has responded to these changes. We are interested in how it continues its unique contribution to European security and serves as a tool for advancing U.S. interests. This a particularly opportune time to examine these issues, since the United States has recently completed its turn as chairman of the OSCE’s Forum for Security Cooperation – or FSC – where many of these issues are addressed. As a result of these deliberations, last December’s OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting in Maastricht reached agreement on developing more secure travel documents, export controls on portable air defense systems, best practices for the transfer of small arms and new measures for the destruction of ammunition stockpiles. These concrete action programs were coupled with a comprehensive strategy for addressing the security environment of the 21st century. The Ministerial also allowed a more open opportunity for the United States and others to press Russia regarding stability in the Caucuses and Moldova and fulfillment of CFE Treaty provisions that were revised and agreed in 1999.

Few are as informed on these developments and able to highlight their potential more than our speaker this morning, James Cox, who serves as the U.S. Chief Arms Control Delegate at the U.S. Mission to the OSCE in Vienna. The Commission invited Mr. Cox to come to Washington to highlight OSCE efforts regarding military aspects of European security, both in terms of the accomplishments just made at Maastricht and the challenges now faced regarding their implementation and additional actions the United States may be seeking.