From urgent crises in Belarus and the Caucasus to the ongoing Russia-fueled war in Ukraine, all three dimensions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s definition of comprehensive security—military, economic and human—are under strain. Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, U.S. State Department Senior Bureau Official, who has been serving in the role of Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia since March 2018, briefed the Commission on newly appointed leadership at the OSCE, including the new Secretary-General Helga Schmid, and U.S. government priorities for the OSCE moving forward.
Ranking Senate Commissioner Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) chaired the hearing and noted that November marked the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Paris, a document that ushered in a new era of peace, unity and democracy in Europe. He acknowledged current challenges in the OSCE region but highlighted that “the real problem within the OSCE today is states not complying with the commitments.” Sen. Cardin thanked U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore for his active engagement with the commission and his commendable service to the United States.
Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Wicker (MS) expressed appreciation to Ambassador Reeker for his leadership. He recommended that the United States take a proactive role to focus the OSCE on U.S. priorities and on issues where it could have the greatest impact, such as instability in the Western Balkans and reforms in Uzbekistan.
Sen. Wicker underlined, “The United States supports the OSCE for one paramount reason: it is an effective tool to advance American interests.”
Ranking Member Wilson (SC-02) ascribed the OSCE’s ability to contribute to pressing issues like combating human trafficking and tackling corruption to its broad focus.
He emphasized, “These initiatives within the OSCE cannot replace efforts done elsewhere, including in our bilateral relations, but they can complement… those efforts with additional resources and expertise.”
In his testimony, Ambassador Reeker recalled the long history of the State Department and the commission working together on issues of peace and security, and expressed appreciation for the work of the Commissioners in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Ambassador Reeker emphasized that the United States is focused on upholding the Helsinki Final Act principles and pushing all participating states to live up to their commitments to those principles. Looking forward, he highlighted several U.S. priorities for engagement at the OSCE. He pledged to keep the protracted conflicts in Europe—whether in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, or Nagorno-Karabakh—high on the OSCE agenda, and added that the United States would encourage greater focus on hybrid threats that were destabilizing already tense security environments. He said that the United States would urge the OSCE to augment its engagement in the ongoing crisis and violent crackdown in Belarus.
“I believe – and I think my predecessors would say the same – the OSCE plays a unique role in the foreign relations of the United States with Europe, Canada, and Central Asia. This is an organization where the United States speaks directly with democratic friends and Allies, as well as with countries that demonstrably do not share our values…. We underscore the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security and the importance of implementing all commitments in all three dimensions – politico-military, economic/environmental, and human.”
– Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, Senior Bureau Official
Ambassador Reeker underscored the United States’ intention to push back against the malign influence of People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China across the OSCE region. He cited the rise of anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-Roma racism, and other forms of hatred in Europe and committed the United States to continue to press strongly for the release of political prisoners and detainees in the region. He emphasized the United States’ determination to condemn and combat all manifestations of intolerance and stressed the significance of holding a Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in 2021 and requested the commission’s support to achieve this goal.
During the discussion, commissioners expressed concern and advocated for progress on a number of issues before the OSCE including anti-corruption, anti-semitism, climate change, energy diversity and the fight against racism and intolerance.
Ambassador Reeker concluded by noting that the United States’ January 2021 chairmanship of the Forum for Security Cooperation was “a key opportunity to project geostrategic leadership and advance political-military priorities.”