Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Moscow Should Engage the OSCE in Resolving the Chechen Problem

Nezavisimaya GazetaRep. Christopher H. Smith and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell

It’s impossible to achieve progress and prosperity by means of the misguided notion of so-called “managed democracy”

Having been propelled from relative obscurity to the presidency of the Russian Federation four years ago, Vladimir Putin is the undisputed leader of his country. His power further consolidated by recent, albeit flawed parliamentary elections, Putin is poised to secure a second mandate in presidential elections scheduled for mid-March. However, with his position secure, the question remains as to how President Putin will wield his considerable power to shape Russia domestically and internationally. The role Russia chooses to play in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will also be an important indicator of the degree to which President Putin is interested in pursuing productive partnership with the West.

Federation Council International Relations Chairman Margelov recently suggested that the OSCE no longer served Russia’s interests. He suggests that the raison d’etre for the OSCE — which consisted originally in Soviet willingness to discuss democratization and human rights in return for Western agreement to arms control talks — became invalid with the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, he argues that NATO’s preponderance in political-military issues, combined with the EU’s weight on economic issues, has turned the OSCE’s previous multidimensional approach to a geographically and functionally discriminating emphasis on democracy in the former Soviet space. But this is a false argument, since it is also in Russia’s interest that its neighbors become stable and prosperous democracies. Rather than being viewed as a challenge to Russia’s interests, OSCE principles and standards – which Moscow helped shape over the years – should be seen as essential tools in strengthening security at home and abroad. As such, the OSCE provides an important and useful framework for building a stronger Russia and enhancing its leadership. Russia should use the organization to its own advantage, and our common democratic agenda, rather than seeing it as a threat to Russian interests.

Indeed, we have many times seen that when Russia chooses to play a positive role it can be the best of partners, actively cooperating with OSCE efforts to combat international terrorism and human trafficking, and promoting a strong role for the organization in economic and environmental affairs. From the first, Russian military forces have played a valuable role in post-Dayton peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

Recent steps by President Putin and the Duma to strengthen legislation against the plague of human trafficking is a timely example of positive leadership Russia can exert on a pressing human rights issue. Such steps are not only in the best interest of the Russian people, but enhance Russia’s standing and prestige throughout the world. The same can be said for President Putin’s strong statements condemning anti-Semitism.

At home, President Putin’s stated objective is to build a “united Russia.” If this is to be more than a mere slogan, he will have to choose between pursuing this goal by either fostering freedom or resorting to force –i.e. embracing elements of pluralistic civil society or marginalizing, if not eliminating, them. A rapidly disappearing independent national broadcast media, actions against human rights and pro-democracy NGOs, and manipulations of elections must be reversed in keeping with Russia’s OSCE commitments if the country is to play the leadership role that it could and should play. Those commitments offer a far better blueprint for progress and prosperity than does the misguided notion of so-called “managed democracy” popular among some political circles close to Putin.

The OSCE can also be an important resource for resolving issues of concern to the international community. Moscow should seriously engage the OSCE in efforts to bring about a political solution to the current Chechen conflict now entering its fifth year. Although Russia pledged to withdraw its forces from the Transdniestria region of Moldova at the 1999 OSCE Summit, those troops have not been withdrawn and efforts to reach a settlement have been complicated by Russian “free-lance” negotiating outside the agreed international framework. Russian forces also remain deployed on the ground in Georgia, a policy which has tended to exacerbate the situation in that country rent by conflict and division. Blatant assistance to separatists in Georgia makes Russia look like a bully and a troublemaker and lowers her prestige internationally. Russian status was further undermined by the contretemps with Ukraine over Tuzla Island in late October.

Russia has considerable assets at its disposal – including a seasoned diplomatic corps – to advance the aims of the OSCE in overcoming the legacy of the past and enhancing security through the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. But through steps like those recounted above, Moscow has raised questions about her intentions and created concern, lowering her ability to persuade OSCE partners of her positive political motivations in the region.

The comprehensive nature and membership of the OSCE offer Russia a unique framework within which to enhance security while advancing cooperation. When Russia has been a creative, energetic partner in the organization, the Russian people have gained respect and strength.

Our common goal in 2004 should be to seek ways to strengthen cooperation. Everyone will gain.

View the article in Russian.

 

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Hearings

Hamas’ Hostages, Putin’s Prisoners, and Freeing Inte...

Oct 25, 2023

The practice of seizing hostages and political prisoners, as well as actively terrorizing civilians is a constant displayed by Hamas in Israel and Russia’s war against Ukraine. To highlight issues related to the United States’ strategy to free hostages and political prisoners, last year the Commission’s Ranking Member Congressman Steve Cohen and Chairman Joe Wilson […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Israel and Ukraine Against Terror

Oct 19, 2023

Terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli and Ukrainian civilians have shocked the world with their cruelty and sophistication. These unprovoked attacks are fueled by transnational terrorist networks that include Hamas, Russia, and the Iranian regime, and which regularly target Ukrainian and Israeli civilians and infrastructure. Israel and Ukraine face common foes in terrorist networks that use […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

Helsinki Commission Advances Human Rights, Demands f...

Oct 19, 2023

By Shannon Simrell, Senior Policy Advisor Between October 2-13, 11 Helsinki Commission staff joined approximately 1,400 representatives of OSCE participating States (pS) and civil society representatives in Warsaw, Poland in an annual review of the human rights records of OSCE States. U.S. leadership highlighted demands for accountability from Russia and Belarus for their human rights […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Hearing: Has the United Nations Failed Ukraine and t...

Sep 27, 2023

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 2:00 pm to 3:30 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2200 Stream live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrBXYsQA0Qk In 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the largest land war in Europe since World War II. In its wake, experts and leaders like President Zelenskyy raise serious questions whether a United Nations […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Has the UN failed Ukraine and the World?

Sep 23, 2023

  Many leaders and experts argue that the United Nations has struggled to uphold Article I of the UN Charter which mandates the UN to “take effective collective measures for the preventions and removal of threats to the peace,”. Russia, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has been blocking actions to defend […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s Personal Prisoner

Sep 20, 2023

Stream here: HEARING: Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s Personal Prisoner – YouTube Vladimir Kara-Murza, a father, husband, and a freedom fighter, has been in detention for over five hundred days and is currently being transferred to a prison in Siberia. As he is being moved, his family has lost all contact with him and are faced with worry […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Rescuing Ukrainian Children and Women from Russia...

Jul 26, 2023

Russia’s war has exposed the critical need for U.S. and international action to both save Ukraine’s children and to put in place measures for the future that will protect children, as well as vulnerable refugees around the world, from wartime atrocities and from other threats such as human trafficking. Ukraine’s children are suffering serious injury […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

HEARING: RESCUING UKRAINIAN CHILDREN AND WOMEN FROM ...

Jul 19, 2023

Wednesday, July 26, 2023 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Rayburn House Building room 2200 Streaming here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n-NyI5xjt8 Russia’s war has exposed the critical need for U.S. and international action to both save Ukraine’s children and to put in place measures for the future that will protect children, as well as vulnerable refugees around the world, […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukra...

Jul 14, 2023

The Helsinki Commission’s four senior leaders helmed the United States’ bicameral, bipartisan delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last week in Vancouver, Canada. Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), serving as Head of Delegation, was joined by Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) as Deputy Head of Delegation as well as Ranking Members […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Supporting A Democratic and Secure Moldova

Jul 12, 2023

In recent years, Moldova has made notable steps to improve its democratic institutions and combat corruption. President Maia Sandu and her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) have spearheaded wide-ranging reforms and backed a number of high-profile anti-corruption cases. Moldova has also made strides toward greater integration with the European Union (EU). In 2022, the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Chair and Co-Chair Lead Delegati...

Jul 10, 2023

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Helsinki Commission Chair Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) in Vancouver, Canada from June 30-July 4. As Head of Delegation and Deputy Head of Delegation respectively, Senator Cardin and Representative Wilson welcomed the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Hearing: Supporting a Democratic and Secure Moldova

Jul 06, 2023

Wednesday, July 12, 2023 2:00 pm Cannon House Office Building, Room 210 Live stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm-R6rfQbCo In recent years, Moldova has enacted numerous reforms under current Moldovan President Maia Sandu to strengthen its democratic institutions, combat corruption and kleptocracy, and integrate with the European Union. In 2022, the European Union granted Moldova “Candidate” status in its […]

screen-reader-text