Has the UN failed Ukraine and the World?Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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 (UN) created for a post-World War II world over a half century ago lacks the capability and political will to meet today’s 21st Century challenges. The lack of UN collective action on Russia’s war on Ukraine--from its 2014 seizure of the Crimea to the UN General Assembly this week--is stark evidence of the urgent need to address these questions. Article 1 of the UN Charter mandates the UN to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace,” a purpose the UN has struggled with, not just in Ukraine, but in war-torn areas around the world. Leaders and experts argue the UN has instead enabled Russia, including through its role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to block actions to defend Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and undermine effective humanitarian action and peacekeeping in Ukraine and elsewhere. The hearing will examine how dynamics in the UN and its UNSC have prevented adequate humanitarian and diplomatic responses to international crises that Russia has either caused or exacerbated. It will further explore Ukrainian and global perceptions of the organization, and specific actions and reforms needed to meet one of the greatest challenges to international security and peace since the UN’s founding. Finally, it will start a critical conversation between Commission leaders, leading officials, and top experts on how fundamental issues in the UN and other institutions founded in the last century can be addressed to meet today’s emerging international challenges. ### The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent commission of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental, and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
Hearing: Has the United Nations Failed Ukraine and the World?Wednesday, September 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 (UN) created for a post-World War II world over a half century ago lacks the capability and political will to meet today’s 21st Century challenges. The lack of UN collective action on Russia’s war on Ukraine--from its 2014 seizure of the Crimea to the UN General Assembly this week--is stark evidence of the urgent need to address these questions. Article 1 of the UN Charter mandates the UN to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace,” a purpose the UN has struggled with, not just in Ukraine, but in war-torn areas around the world. Leaders and experts argue the UN has instead enabled Russia, including through its role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to block actions to defend Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and undermine effective humanitarian action and peacekeeping in Ukraine and elsewhere. The hearing will examine how dynamics in the UN and its UNSC have prevented adequate humanitarian and diplomatic responses to international crises that Russia has either caused or exacerbated. It will further explore Ukrainian and global perceptions of the organization, and specific actions and reforms needed to meet one of the greatest challenges to international security and peace since the UN’s founding. Finally, it will start a critical conversation between Commission leaders, leading officials, and top experts on how fundamental issues in the UN and other institutions founded in the last century can be addressed to meet today’s emerging international challenges. The following government and UN witnesses have been invited to testify: Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations The government and UN witnesses will be followed by an expert panel, including: Thomas Grant, University of Cambridge, Senior Research Fellow Natasha Hall, Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, CSIS ### The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent commission of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental, and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin's Personal PrisonerWednesday, September 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 over his quickly deteriorating health. This Helsinki Commission examined why the Department of State has failed to designate Mr. Kara-Murza as a Wrongfully or Illegally Detained Person and the importance of securing his release from Putin’s prison. Mrs. Evgenia Kara-Murza, Advocacy Director at the Free Russia Foundation and wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza presented his life leading up to his arrest, his time in prison, and plea to the United States of America to save her husband. In Mrs. Kara-Murza’s testimony, she described his courage and internal fight to continue advocating against the Putin regime despite being poisoned twice. Mrs. Kara-Murza stated a quote from Senator John McCain that “Courage is not the absence of fear but the capacity to act despite our fears” which described Vladimir Kara-Murza’s yearning to return to Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Mrs. Kara-Murza then stated how her husband’s health continues to deteriorate and has lost contact with family while he is being transferred to a penal colony in Siberia. She ended her testimony by explaining that if the United States wants to see a different and democratic Russia that is at peace with its neighbors then her husband represents that vision and should be saved. Ms. Meghan McCain, in her testimony to this Helsinki Commission, spoke to support the freedom “of a warrior, a patriot, and … a friend” and to urge the Department of State to declare Mr. Kara-Murza a “Wrongfully Detained Person” under the Levinson Act. Ms. McCain began her speech by explaining the fall of Russia. A nation which once possessed a flourishing culture of great artists and writers has fallen into a “gray winter” from Communism to then the regime of Putin. She stated how Vladimir Kara-Murza is the spring who she described as a fearless man knowing all risk and will bring better days to Russia. Ms. McCain then finished up her testimony with a plea that the designation of Vladimir Kara-Murza as “Wrongfully Detained” is in American interest and the designation will also improve his moral condition. Another notable speaker who testified to this Helsinki Commission was Vladimir and Evgenia’s daughter Sonya Kara-Murza, who spoke on behalf of her siblings. Ms. Kara-Murza described the passion her father has for his work to achieve “his goal of a peaceful and hopeful future for Russia” as well as his lessons of bravery to his family. She stated to the Commissioners the necessity of a loving family to be together and eloquently finished with saying to the Commissioners “please bring my father back home”. Following the testimonies, the Commissioners proceeded to ask questions to both Mrs. Evgenia Kara-Murza and Ms. Meghan McCain on Vladimir Kara-Murza’s medical condition and the Department of States lack of clarity on the reason for not declaring Vladimir Kara-Murza a “Wrongfully Detained Person”. Chairman Wilson and Ranking Member Cohen introduced a bill requiring the Department of State to designate Vladimir Kara-Murza a Wrongfully Detained Person or failing that, explain to Congress why this is not possible. A takeaway quote from this hearing from Mrs. Evgenia Kara-Murza was as follows: “I do realize that behind bars Vladimir will not receive the medical attention that he needs. I do realize that he has already lost over 55 pounds over this year. I understand that his medical condition is only going to deteriorate and I understand that he’s being held by the same people who tried to kill him twice…So this is urgent and it is a matter of life and death”
Rescuing Ukrainian Children and Women from Russia's AggressionWednesday, July 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 and trauma due to Russia’s genocidal war of aggression on Ukraine. Almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been displaced, thousands have been injured and hundreds killed. The Ukrainian government has documented close to 20,000 cases of children forcibly taken to Russia or Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine for forced russification, a war crime under the Geneva Convention that could amount to genocide. In addition to the immediate dangers, the effects of war on children will have lasting negative consequences if not addressed. Many Ukrainian children have witnessed unimaginable violence, including the murders of their own parents or family members. At the same time, some Ukrainian women and children are facing increased vulnerability to human trafficking. Of the 8 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, 90% are women and children. There continue to be credible reports of traffickers trolling border areas, train stations, and refugee centers trying to lure refugees with promises of accommodation, onward transportation, or employment, sometimes even masquerading as volunteers providing assistance. Nevertheless, international responses, particularly along border areas, have not been sufficient. This hearing will provide testimony from top officials and experts on the ground to discuss the devastating impact of Russia’s war on Ukrainian children and women and what the United States and the international community can do to better protect these vulnerable women and children from the trauma of war and to prevent human trafficking. It will also detail a new bill taking action to address these challenges, Oleksandr’s Act, which is dedicated to the Ukrainian children who have suffered during this war.
HEARING: RESCUING UKRAINIAN CHILDREN AND WOMEN FROM RUSSIA’S AGGRESSIONWednesday, July 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, from wartime atrocities and from other threats such as human trafficking. Ukraine’s children are suffering serious injury and trauma due to Russia’s genocidal war of aggression on Ukraine. Almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been displaced, thousands have been injured and hundreds killed. The Ukrainian government has documented close to 20,000 cases of children forcibly taken to Russia or Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine for forced russification, a war crime under the Geneva Convention that could amount to genocide. In addition to the immediate dangers, the effects of war on children will have lasting negative consequences if not addressed. Many Ukrainian children have witnessed unimaginable violence, including the murders of their own parents or family members. At the same time, some Ukrainian women and children are facing increased vulnerability to human trafficking. Of the 8 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, 90% are women and children. There continue to be credible reports of traffickers trolling border areas, train stations, and refugee centers trying to lure refugees with promises of accommodation, onward transportation, or employment, sometimes even masquerading as volunteers providing assistance. Nevertheless, international responses, particularly along border areas, have not been sufficient. This hearing will provide testimony from top officials and experts on the ground to discuss the devastating impact of Russia’s war on Ukrainian children and women and what the United States and the international community can do to better protect these vulnerable women and children from the trauma of war and to prevent human trafficking. It will also detail a new bill taking action to address these challenges, Oleksandr’s Act, which is dedicated to the Ukrainian children who have suffered during this war. Panel 1: Beth Van Schaack, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice Cindy Dyer, U.S. Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Panel 2: Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Sebastian Stachowski, CEO of Lion Environmental, former Volunteer Coordinator for the Polish Red Cross, Subcarpathian Region Mykola Kuleba, Director, Save Ukraine and former Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights Dr. James S. Gordon, M.D., The Center for Mind-Body Medicine Other witnesses may be added.
United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukraine at OSCE PA Annual SessionFriday, July 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 Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), alongside six other Members of Congress. The high-level delegation demonstrated the United States’ global leadership role in rallying support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. At the outset of the Parliamentary Assembly session, the U.S. delegation held a closed-door bilateral meeting with the Ukrainian delegation to synchronize support. The U.S. delegation also voted to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on Ukraine to consolidate and coordinate the Parliamentary Assembly’s manifold activities on Ukraine. “We are comprised of Democrats, Republicans, House members, and Senate members and we are unified in our support for Ukraine,” Sen. Cardin said, introducing the U.S. delegation at the opening plenary on June 30. Speaking on behalf of the delegation, he told the gathering of more than 225 parliamentarians from 50 countries that “we recognize Ukraine is our front line in the defense of democracy and sovereignty. We stand with democracy and sovereignty. We stand with Ukraine.” From right: Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker, and Chairman Joe Wilson participate in the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE PA. (Photo Credit: OSCE PA) Other members of the U.S. delegation included: Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-37); Representative Gwen Moore (WI-04), Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration; Representative Andy Harris (MD-01); Chair of the OSCE PA General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Representative Richard Hudson (NC-09); Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33); and Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05) Neither the Russian nor the Belarusian delegations attended the meeting. Members of the Russian delegation are subject to Canadian travel sanctions and the delegation has forfeited its voting rights in the Assembly after refusing to pay its national contribution to the PA’s annual budget for 2022-2023. Demonstrating Resolute Support for Ukraine Over the course of four days of debate, votes, and bilateral meetings, the United States’ representatives at the Annual Session drew attention to the enormity of Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and the threat Russian President Vladimir Putin poses to global peace. The Annual Session culminated in the overwhelming adoption of a concluding document, known as the Vancouver Declaration. Contributing to the text of the declaration, the U.S. delegation sponsored three resolutions, known as supplementary items, on combatting antisemitism, on countering the notorious Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries, and on protecting and supporting Ukraine’s women and children. The United States also successfully proposed 23 amendments to other resolutions, including those from the PA’s three general committees as well as supplementary items from other delegations on Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. Across these initiatives, the United States called attention to Russian acts of genocide in Ukraine, Belarus’ complicity in Russia’s war on Ukraine, Russia’s practice of energy blackmail, Chinese harassment of dissidents in OSCE participating States, democratic backsliding in the OSCE region, Russia’s occupation of Georgian territory, and the need to reform the global security architecture to prevent further acts of Russian aggression. From right: Chairman Joe Wilson, Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Richard Hudson, Rep. Victoria Spartz, and Rep. Andy Harris at the opening plenary of the Annual Session in Vancouver. (Photo Credit: CSCE) Helsinki Commission Chairman Wilson took the floor in the opening plenary to condemn the “genocidal intent” behind Moscow’s assault on civilian infrastructure and women and children in Ukraine. Calling for outright victory for Ukraine, Rep. Wilson observed that “Putin does not negotiate in good faith. He perceives negotiations as an invitation for appeasement.” Rep. Victoria Spartz addresses a committee session at the Annual Session. (Photo Credit: OSCE) Participating in her first Annual Session, newly appointed Commissioner Rep. Victoria Spartz spoke in personal terms about the war in Ukraine: “As someone who was born in Ukraine and spent half of my life there…I understand what a high price the Ukrainian people are paying for their freedoms. But they’re paying this price not just for them but also for each of us.” Rep. Spartz called on OSCE participating States to consider reform of international security mechanisms to create “a framework to deter these brutal atrocities that are happening in Ukraine.” Countering Russia’s Threats and Bolstering Ukraine’s Resilience Rep. Richard Hudson chaired the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security for the third straight year and used his opening remarks to highlight Russia’s “dangerous rhetoric about using nuclear weapons, on top of its complete disregard for international security mechanisms and military transparency.” In particular, he noted “Russia’s announced withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty…[that] underscores its reckless and bad faith approach to arms control and confidence building measures.” Later in the session, Rep. Hudson easily won reelection to another one-year term as Chairman of the committee, informally known as the First Committee. Rep. Richard Hudson chairs the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security. (Photo Credit: OSCE) The First Committee unanimously adopted a resolution on “The Wagner Group’s Terroristic Nature and Actions” co-sponsored by Rep. Marc Veasey, a member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism (CCT), and led by Austrian Member of Parliament and CCT Chairman Reinhold Lopatka. Echoing the Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries Act (HARM Act) in the U.S. Congress, the resolution calls on OSCE participating States to designate the Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization to facilitate criminal prosecutions of those involved in the group and enablers provisioning it with financial and material resources. While introducing the text, Rep. Veasey explained how the Wagner Group fits the definition of a terrorist group given its record of “atrocities in furtherance of political ends” committed against noncombatants. He further noted that “the fact that Wagner turned against the regime that birthed it, does not change the fact that this is a terrorist group.” Former First Committee Chairman and OSCE PA Vice President Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) weighed in during the committee’s opening debate to decry Russia’s practice of “energy blackmail,” including targeting “Ukraine’s basic infrastructure and the energy security of the rest of the continent.” Noting his position as Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Wicker highlighted the United States’ $130 billion of security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion and thanked other OSCE countries for contributing to the effort. “Ukraine,” he said, “is not asking us as members of the OSCE to do their fighting for them….they’re simply asking us to give them the financial means and the resources to get the job done.” U.S. delegates also contributed to the work of the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology, and Environment, or Second Committee, by proposing amendments on Ukraine to the committee’s draft resolution. These amendments decried the environmental impact of Russia’s war and its systematic use of energy blackmail as an instrument of malign influence. Pointing toward emerging technologies that could mitigate energy dependence on Russia, Sen. Cardin also presented an amendment authored by Rep. Hudson “encouraging cooperation for the development and adoption of small modular reactors to achieve energy independence and diversification.” Advocating for Political Prisoners and Protecting Ukrainian Women and Children In the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions, known as the Third Committee, Rep. Cohen invoked his role as OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners while paying tribute to political prisoners in Belarus and Russia who face brutal punishment for speaking the truth. “These,” he said, “are the people who evoke the principles of the OSCE: they speak for transparency, they speak for freedom, they speak against autocrats.” In particular, he highlighted the ongoing detention of oppositionists Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza in Russia as well as Siarhei Tsikhanouski in Belarus and called on parliamentarians to use their platforms as elected officials to draw attention to these prisoners and work for their release. Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen addresses a committee meeting at the Annual Session. (Photo Credit: OSCE) Members of the Third Committee unanimously adopted a U.S. resolution on “Adopting Effective Mechanisms to Safeguard Ukrainian Women and Children from Abuse, Exploitation, and Human Trafficking,” led by OSCE PA Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues Rep. Chris Smith and co-sponsored by Rep. Wilson. Rep. Wilson introduced the resolution, which calls on OSCE participating States to take specific steps to press for the return of Ukrainian children forcibly taken to Russia and Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, prevent human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees, most of whom are women and children, and provide resources for trauma treatment for children. “Russia’s brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine has exposed the critical need for 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, from wartime atrocities and other threats such as human trafficking,” Rep. Wilson told the committee. Countering the Rise of Antisemitsm In a plenary session on July 3, Sen. Cardin presented his annual report as OSCE PA Special Representative on Antisemitism, Racism, and Intolerance and introduced a corresponding U.S. resolution on “Rising Antisemitism in the OSCE Region.” Sen. Cardin sounded the alarm that “antisemitism, racism, and intolerance is clearly on the rise across the OSCE region.” To counter this disturbing trend, he called on parliamentarians and OSCE participating States to “lead the fight against hate” by speaking out, preventing the normalization of hateful behaviors, adopting a national strategy such as has recently been done in the United States, strengthening Holocaust education, and deploying OSCE resources designed to address antisemitism and hate-based incidents. Earlier in the day, Sen. Cardin hosted a well-attended side event titled “Countering the Rise in Antisemitism and Other Hate-Based Incidents: Government Action and Leadership.” The panel discussion featured participation from Susan Heller Pinto, Vice President of International Policy at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism. From right: Rabbi Andrew Baker, Sen. Cardin, Susan Heller Pinto, and Matteo Mecacci participate at a side event on countering antisemitism and other hate-based incidents in the OSCE region on July 3. (Photo Credit: CSCE) On the sidelines of the Annual Session, the U.S. delegation held additional bilateral consultations with the Canadian and German delegations as well as with all three candidates for OSCE PA President, a visiting delegation of parliamentarians from the Organization of American States (OAS), and ODIHR Director Mecacci. Additionally, Rep. Moore and Rep. Veasey, respectively, participated in meetings of the ad hoc committees on Migration and Countering Terrorism, of which they are each members.
Supporting A Democratic and Secure MoldovaWednesday, July 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 country applied to join the EU and in June of that year was granted “Candidate” status, alongside Ukraine. The EU supplied Moldova with a list of nine recommendations for further improvements to democratic institutions and the rule of law in the country, which leaders in Chisinau have pledged to fulfill. At the same time as Moldova attempts to strengthen its democracy and bolster its ties with the West, it remains under persistent threat from Russia. Russia has attempted to stoke unrest in Moldova, interfere in its domestic politics, and leverage its supply of energy resources to the country. Russia further maintains a garrison of roughly 2,000 troops in the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria. Beyond the direct threat of Russian influence operations, Moldova also faces the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has contributed to significant increases in prices for food and energy. Furthermore, more than 800,000 refugees have entered the country since February 2022, and roughly 100,000 remain in the country still. Against the backdrop of opportunities and challenges facing Moldova, the U.S. Helsinki Commission held a hearing featuring senior U.S. and Moldovan parliamentary leadership to explore how the United States can continue to support Moldova in its democratic reform agenda, continue its anti-corruption efforts, and achieve durable security for itself and the region. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Bischof testified about the state of U.S. support for Moldova. He emphasized that Moldova stood “on the frontline of our strategic priorities for Europe,” and praised the country’s recent efforts to implement reforms. Mr. Bischof highlighted that the Biden administration remains committed to supporting Moldova’s efforts to address the effects of the war, bolster its democratic and economic resilience, and achieve its goals of EU integration. To that effect, he noted that the administration has devoted $628 million to the country since February 2022. Mr. Bischof also detailed the risks that Russia poses to the country’s security. These come both from influence operations and from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has seen several Russian incursions into Moldovan airspace. He emphasized that the administration has increased its security assistance to Moldova nearly tenfold in recent years to assist the country in safeguarding itself against Russian aggression. The President of Moldova’s Parliament, Igor Grosu, then testified about the country’s resilience in the face of hybrid threats from Russia, its ongoing commitment to continue reforms, and its determination to achieve EU ascension. Mr. Grosu stressed that Moldova has worked tirelessly to ensure peace and stability in the country amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and under a broad spectrum of hybrid threats from Russia. Mr. Grosu thanked the United States for providing crucial support to help Moldova withstand threats from Russia and work toward fulfilling the country’s reform agenda. He also emphasized the need for continued support, including through legislation such as the “Euro-Atlantic Solidarity and Major Democratic Ally Act of 2022,” which would allow for greater U.S. Moldova defense cooperation. Mr. Grosu further stressed that, against the destabilizing backdrop of Russia’s war, continued support for Ukraine was also essential support for Moldova. Doina Gherman, the Chairwoman of the Moldovan Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee underscored this sentiment, imploring members “not to uncouple Moldova from Ukraine because a safe Ukraine is a safe Moldova, and a safe Ukraine is a safe Europe.” Amb. (ret.) William Hill, a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center gave the final testimony. He stressed that although Moldova’s reform agenda was moving the country in a positive direction, progress will take time. Amb. Hill also highlighted the numerous challenges and threats that Moldova currently faces but observed that the present moment also offers opportunities. In particular, he suggested that recent successes in negotiations surrounding Transnistria and changing dynamics of Russian influence in the region opened a window for a resolution of the conflict. Mr. Hill urged the Sandu government not to miss this opportunity. Members expressed their support for Moldova’s reforms and condemned Russia’s malign attempts to exert influence over the country. They also questioned the witnesses about the extent and impact of current U.S. support to Moldova and inquired into the most effective ways that the United States can continue to support a secure and democratic Moldova moving forward. Related Information
Helsinki Commission Chair and Co-Chair Lead Delegation to 2023 OSCE PA Annual MeetingMonday, July 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 passage of the Vancouver Declaration on the final day of the OSCE PA Annual Session. The Declaration strongly condemned Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, calling for Russia’s complete withdrawal from all of Ukraine. It urged OSCE states to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and genocide against the Ukrainian people and support the establishment of a special international tribunal. En route, members of the Delegation received in-region briefings to advance awareness on Arctic security challenges impacting U.S. military installations and Alaska Native organizations. “Last week, we have had the privilege to spend time with parliamentarians from a wide array of OSCE countries who remain committed to supporting Ukraine as it continues to fight Russian aggression,” Senator Cardin and Representative Wilson said. “We were pleased to join the OSCE countries at the PA in declaring our commitment to a path to peace on Ukraine’s terms by endorsing President Zelenskyy’s 10-point Peace Plan. As we return home, we look forward to building on the Declaration by ensuring that Ukraine receives the support it needs to defend itself against this ruthless invasion and secure Russian withdrawal from all areas of Ukraine.” The legislators also applauded the OSCE PA’s adoption of all three resolutions sponsored by U.S. delegation members: a resolution addressing the Wagner group’s terroristic nature and actions, sponsored by Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33); a resolution on adopting effective mechanisms to safeguard Ukrainian women and children from abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking, sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Representative Wilson; and a resolution on rising antisemitism in the OSCE region, sponsored by Senator Cardin. “As members of a body whose charter centers around securing human rights for all individuals in member countries, we are proud that the American delegation shined a light on and built consensus around some of the most pressing challenges facing the OSCE region,” the chair and co-chair added. “We are encouraged by our counterparts’ willingness to work to prevent future violence, address the physical and psychological trauma suffered by those experiencing conflict zones and discrimination, and hold perpetrators of such abuses accountable.” Throughout the OSCE PA Annual Session, members of the U.S. delegation participated in committees and bilateral meetings on a variety of topics affecting the region. In the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Committee Chairman Representative Richard Hudson (NC-09) deplored Russia’s assault on regional security and urged solidarity with Ukraine’s fight for freedom. At the end of the session, Rep. Hudson was reelected by acclamation to his post as Chairman for another year. On Monday, Senator Cardin, in his capacity as OSCE PA Special Representative on Antisemitism, Racism, and Intolerance, hosted an important side event on countering the rise of antisemitism and other hate-based incidents. He was joined by Susan Heller Pinto, Vice President of International Policy at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism. The U.S. delegation to the Annual Session additionally included: OSCE PA Vice President Senator Roger F. Wicker (MS); OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09); Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-37); Representative Gwen Moore (WI-04), Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration; Representative Andy Harris (MD-01); OSCE PA Chair of the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Representative Richard Hudson (NC-09), Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism; Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33); and Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05).
Hearing: Supporting a Democratic and Secure MoldovaThursday, July 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 EU bid alongside Ukraine. Moldova’s many accomplishments are made all the more remarkable given the ongoing destabilizing effects of Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine and the Putin regime’s efforts to undermine Moldova’s security, economy, and political processes. Nonetheless, Moldova’s government and people have doggedly pursued a liberal democratic path, and have opened their country to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who have transited or found refuge in the country in the wake of Russia’s brutal war. The hearing will feature a discussion with senior U.S. and Moldovan parliamentary leadership to explore how the United States can continue to support Moldova in its democratic reform agenda, continue its anti-corruption efforts, and achieve durable security for itself and the region. The following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Panel 1: Dan Bischof, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Panel 2: Igor Grosu, President of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Doina Gherman, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Ambassador (ret.) William Hill, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center Other witnesses may be added.
Helsinki Commission Leadership Celebrate Pardon of Nika GvaramiaFriday, June 23, 2023
Washington—Today, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09), applauded Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili’s decision to issue a presidential pardon for journalist Nikoloz “Nika” Gvaramia. Mr. Gvaramia, an outspoken media figure and political activist, has been imprisoned since May 2022 on spurious charges. In April, the leadership of the U.S. Helsinki Commission sent a letter to President Zourabichvili asking for her help to break Georgia’s cycle of political prosecution, citing Mr. Gvaramia’s case as a violation of human rights on political grounds. Chairman Wilson and Ranking Member Cohen issued the follow statement: “We commend President Zourabichvili for extending a pardon to Nkoloz Gvaramia, who has been imprisoned for over a year on spurious charges related to his pro-democracy activism. However, this imprisonment never should have happened. We remain concerned about recent developments in Georgia, in particular the proposal of a Russian-style “foreign agents” law that, if passed, would have created an authoritarian regime in Georgia. It was only due to massive protests that the legislation was ultimately withdrawn. We recognize that the Georgian people support human rights, Euro-Atlantic integration, and democratic values and urge the government to return Georgia to this path. Although we join Mr. Gvaramia’s family and friends, Georgians, and pro-democracy advocates around the world in celebrating Mr. Gvaramia’s release, our work advocating for the freedom of political prisoners globally is far from complete. We stand with individuals around the world who are unjustly or wrongfully imprisoned and strive for a reality in which all people are free to express themselves and engage in civil discourse.”
MICHAEL GEFFROY APPOINTED HELSINKI COMMISSION GENERAL COUNSELThursday, June 15, 2023
WASHINGTON—Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today announced the appointment of Michael Geffroy as General Counsel to the Commission. “The Helsinki Commission welcomes Mr. Geffroy. His rich national security, legal, and military background, as well as his service at senior levels in the Congress, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, and in the private sector, make him uniquely qualified to advise the Commission as General Counsel.” said Chairman Joe Wilson. “Michael is a great addition to the Commission. His deep experience across legislative and executive branch roles will help inform our work to advance American interests and cooperation abroad,” added the Commission’s Executive Director Dr. Steven Schrage. “I am honored to join the Commission and work with Chairman Wilson, Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin Cardin, and Commission team,” said Geffroy. “With multiple global challenges and very real multi-faceted threats confronting the United States and our allies, this is a vital time for the Commission.” Mr. Geffroy has previously served in the Congress as the General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as the Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel to the Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as the Deputy Special Counsel to the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Geffroy also served as an Assistant Director in the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of the Treasury, as a Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia. Mr. Geffroy is a veteran and Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (ret). His more than 25 years of commissioned service includes tours with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan and Iraq. His first day at the Commission was June 5, 2023
COMMISSIONERS CALL ON WHITE HOUSE TO TRANSFER ATACMS TO UKRAINEFriday, May 26, 2023
WASHINGTON—Yesterday, members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Commissioner Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05) sent a letter to President Biden, requesting he grants the transfer of MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. In the letter, Commissioners thank the Administration for its beginning steps on getting F-16s to Ukrainian defenders and emphasize the importance of ATACMS on targeting Russian frontlines in occupied Ukraine as well as pushing back Russian supply chain systems which fuel their genocidal war. During the Commissioners’ recent trip to Ukraine and meeting with President Zelensky, ATACMS were requested for an immediate battlefield advantage. These powerful weapons could provide the advantage Ukraine needs to secure its freedom, and the only remaining hurdle to their delivery is the President’s approval. The letter reads: Dear President Biden, We urge you to send the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. From the very beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine requested ATACMS to defend and reclaim their homes in the face of the Kremlin’s genocidal war of conquest. This powerful weapon system would go a long way to ensuring full Ukrainian victory now, while helping deter future Russian threats against Ukraine, the wider region, and Europe as a whole. We thank the administration for beginning the process of getting F-16s to Ukraine, as these jet fighters will make a huge difference toward achieving full Ukrainian victory. On our recent trip to Ukraine, we heard how the Ukrainian army is holding its own against Russia in all areas except the sky. But long-range missiles are also necessary for victory. ATACMS would make an immediate battlefield difference for Ukraine. With an effective range of nearly 200 miles, virtually all major Russian units, naval assets, and strategic infrastructure in occupied Ukrainian territory would be within reach of precision strikes. This would not only help Ukraine degrade or destroy Russian weapons of war used to murder Ukrainian defenders and civilians but would also push Russian units and supply chains further from the front, dramatically complicating sustainment and their ability to continue prosecuting this genocidal war. The fewer supplies and arms that reach Russian forces, the less capable they are of holding Ukrainian territory and killing its people. ATACMS will save Ukrainian lives. Unlike many other weapons which require extensive training and long logistical chains, ATACMS are fired from widely used and available M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System(HIMARS) platform and could be fielded immediately. This is critical in Ukraine where time is of the essence. Ukraine must win as quickly as possible to prevent the needless loss of anymore courageous Ukrainians and to end the war in the only sustainable way: Ukrainian victory. Now that the United Kingdom has delivered Storm Shadow cruise missiles, there is no reason to withhold ATACMS from Ukraine. We must trust the Ukrainians to use our long-range missiles responsibly, just as our British allies have. The Ukrainians have shown repeatedly that they will use every weapon system responsibly and to maximum effect. Ukraine can win the war this year if the United States and our democratic allies transfer all weapons necessary. A defeat or even a military stalemate against Russia’s genocidal invasion would be a catastrophe for our national security and guarantee renewed Russian attacks on Ukraine and broader aggression in Europe. Once Ukraine has achieved victory on its terms, ATACMS, along with other long-range and advanced weapons, will be a primary means of deterring and constraining future Russian aggression. Russian forces will not be able to stage for a future invasion, or threaten the Black Sea region at will, under the shadow of Ukrainian long-range capabilities. We understand that there are concerns the United States does not have enough ATACMS to send to Ukraine. However, many democratic allies also possess ATACMS and forming an international coalition for the transfer of ATACMS, much like has been done with jets and tanks, could help alleviate these concerns. Moreover, the point of these weapons is to protect U.S. national security and the security of our allies, which Ukraine is currently doing alone. The transfer of our ATACMS is logical and urgent under these circumstances. Now that the decision has been made to send F-16s, now is the time to commit to Ukraine’s full victory and deliver all the tools needed. Nearly every weapon system requested by Ukraine has been delivered after intense pressure. Let us not wait for another pressure campaign to deliver ATACMS. In the spirit of proactivity, deterrence, and mindful of the innocent Ukrainian lives lost the longer Russia is allowed to continue its war, we urge your administration to send these war-winning weapons to Ukraine immediately. [Click on the PDF icon above to view the full letter]
CHAIRMAN WILSON LEADS BIPARTISAN DELEGATION TO GERMANY, POLAND, AND UKRAINEFriday, May 12, 2023
WASHINGTON—From May 1st to May 7th, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan U.S. delegation to Germany, Poland, and Ukraine to coordinate support for Ukraine and examine current wartime challenges. The delegation consulted with high-ranking government officials and civil society actors regarding ongoing military and humanitarian responses to the Russian invasion. Chairman Wilson was joined on the delegation by Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Commissioner Victoria Spartz (IN-05). “Friends of democracy are inspired by courageous Ukrainians capably supported by our appreciated western allies, like Germany and Poland, in the global competition between democracies with rule of law opposing authoritarians with rule of gun. “Ukraine must win this war against Russia’s brutal aggression — there is no alternative. Ukraine must be restored to its internationally recognized 1991 borders and integrated into NATO and other Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States must work with its allies and partners to ensure that the leaders of the Russian Federation are held accountable. “Despite promises after World War II of ‘never again,’ today, in 2023, Russia is committing the very crimes that the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg was created to address: the crime of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As in Nuremberg, we must bring to justice the perpetrators of the genocide being carried out in Ukraine – including war criminal Putin himself,” said Chairman Wilson and Ranking Member Cohen. In Germany, the delegation met with high-level defense and foreign affairs officials to discuss Germany’s partnership in ensuring Ukrainian victory. In Berlin, the Commissioners met with National Security Advisor Jens Ploetner, Ministry of Foreign Affairs State Secretary Andreas Michaelis, and Ministry of Justice State Secretary Dr. Angelika Schlunck who provided assurances of sustained support for Ukraine. In a visit to the Nuremburg Palace of Justice, site of the Nuremberg trials, the delegation drew obvious parallels to accountability for Russia’s criminal aggression against Ukraine. After visiting Nuremberg, Lieutenant General Andrew Rohling welcomed the delegation to the 7th Army Grafenwoehr Training Area where Ukrainian troops are being trained. In Ukraine, the delegation visited Bucha and Kyiv joined by U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation Michael Carpenter and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink. In Bucha, survivors testified to mass murder of civilians by Russian soldiers and the delegation paid homage to the victims. In Kyiv, the delegation met with Ukrainian children who had been taken to Russia and Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine as part of a Russian effort to erase their identity and forcibly assimilate them. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov highlighted Ukraine’s military needs and mechanisms of accountability for international assistance. The delegation met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who expressed the urgent need for F-16 fighter aircraft to defend his people and keep open sea-lanes for Ukrainian wheat vital to feeding Europe, Africa, and the world. President Zelenskyy expressed his deep gratitude to the United States for supporting Ukraine’s fight for freedom. In Poland, the delegation visited Rzeszów where Colonel Matt Braman and Colonel Kendall Clark briefed on the activities of the 10th Mountain Division. The delegation also met with the Polish border service and non-governmental organizations working near the border to prevent Ukrainian refugees from falling victim to human traffickers. Warsaw was the concluding stop for consultations with U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Director Matteo Mecacci. The delegation thanked Poland for supporting Ukraine and welcoming millions of Ukrainians who have fled Russian terror.
HELSINKI COMMISSION SENDS APPEAL TO GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SALOME ZOURABICHVILIFriday, April 28, 2023
WASHINGTON— The leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), and Ranking Members Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Senator Roger Wicker (MS) sent a letter to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili urging her to intervene to break the cycle of political prosecution in the country. In the letter, the legislators cite the case of Mr. Nikoloz Gvaramia, an outspoken media figure and political activist. His imprisonment, on spurious charges, is a violation of his human rights and an affront to Georgia’s democracy. Releasing political prisoners such as Mr. Gvaramia is an essential step towards EU candidacy for Georgia, and an important humanitarian gesture. President Zourabichvili has shown herself to be an outspoken and principled leader for Georgian democracy and has an opportunity to continue to cement this legacy, advance Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic dream, and perform a significant humanitarian service by using her pardon powers to address the ongoing cycle of political prosecution. Click the PDF icon above to view the letter.
BIPARTISAN UKRAINE VICTORY RESOLUTION INTRODUCED IN HOUSE AND SENATEWednesday, April 26, 2023
WASHINGTON— Yesterday, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced the Ukraine Victory Resolution in the House of Representatives. Commissioners Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), introduced the resolution in the Senate. The resolution affirms that it is the policy of the United States to see Ukraine victorious against the Russian invasion, holds that the peace brought by victory must be secured by integrating Ukraine into NATO, and declares that the United States must work with its allies and partners to secure reparations, reconstruction, justice for Russian war crimes, and accountability for Russian leaders. “Ukrainian victory is the only path to peace. We must ensure that Ukraine is well-armed and outfitted so that the upcoming counteroffensive can meet expectations and Ukraine can win the war as quickly as possible. Ukrainian victory is good for U.S. national security and economic stability, denies Putin any reward for its invasion, and deters China and Iran. Ukraine’s existence depends on victory,” said Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson. “Ukrainian victory is also critical for the United States. Ukraine is preventing an incursion into NATO and demonstrating to autocrats that borders cannot be changed by force alone—a fundamental underpinning of the peaceful international system. The Ukrainian fight is our common fight. There is no alternative to victory,” said Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen. “Ukraine will win the war—and win the peace—if America continues its steadfast support as this resolution strongly states,” said Senator Blumenthal. “True victory means stopping Russia’s murderous assault, imposing accountability for crimes against humanity, and rebuilding Ukraine at Russia’s expense. To our NATO allies as well as Ukraine, our message must be that we’ll have your back in this fight for freedom and democracy—yours and ours together,” said Commissioner Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “This bipartisan, bicameral resolution says what we all know to be true – that Ukrainian victory is in the best interest of every democracy on earth,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Putin’s brutal war seeks to steal Ukraine’s land and its future. The United States and our allies have played, and should continue to play, a leading role in securing everything Ukraine needs to achieve victory and rebuild. I join my colleagues in sending a clear message to the people of Ukraine: we are with you to victory,” said Commissioner Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “I enthusiastically support the concept of victory for Ukraine, which is possible with aggressive Western help, particularly in the area of weapons. The Russian army has been dealt a severe blow. It is now time to go all in for victory for Ukraine. That means continuing to provide them the weapons they need to repel the Russian invaders, labeling Putin’s Russia a state sponsor of terrorism and lending our voice to holding Putin and his cronies accountable for war crimes committed on an industrial scale. Victory for Ukraine is possible, but we have to be all in,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. Ukraine regained its independence in 1991 after three centuries of Moscow’s imperial rule. In 1994, the United States encouraged Ukraine to abandon its arsenal of nuclear weapons, the third largest in the world at the time, in exchange for security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum. The Ukrainians have had two revolutions since independence, the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, demonstrating their commitment to shared ideals of democracy and freedom and their desire for Euro-Atlantic integration. In 2008, at the Bucharest NATO Summit, NATO states declared, “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agree today that these countries will become members of NATO.” Russia initially invaded Ukraine in 2014 and massively escalated its invasion in 2022. In 2022, the UN General Assembly called on member states to create a mechanism for reparations to be paid to Ukraine. In 2023, the United States issued a finding that Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity. Original cosponsors of the resolution in the House of Representatives also include: Mike Lawler (NY-17), Richard Hudson (NC-09), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Bill Pascrell (NJ-08), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Jim Costa (CA-21), David Trone (MD-06), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). Click on the PDF icon above to view the resolution.
Steven Schrage Appointed Helsinki Commission Executive DirectorFriday, March 24, 2023
WASHINGTON—Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today announced the appointment of Dr. Steven P. Schrage as Helsinki Commission Executive Director. “The Helsinki Commission welcomes Dr. Steven Schrage to its already impressive team. His rich foreign policy experiences and academia background with the State Department, White House, Congress, Duke, Harvard, Cambridge University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) as well as other institutions, make him uniquely qualified to lead the Commission as Executive Director. “I welcome Steven’s ideas and insights to further compliment the Commission’s mission, and look forward to working closely with him,” said Chairman Joe Wilson. “I am honored to join Chairman Wilson’s Helsinki Commission team and help support his long and impressive work to advance American interests and cooperation abroad,” said Schrage. “With the largest war in Europe since World War II and new global challenges facing America and our allies, there has never been a more critical time for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe’s mission.” Schrage has previously served as Co-Chair of the G8’s Crime and Terrorism Group and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, where he oversaw over $2 billion in global assistance and operations and over 2000 personnel after 9/11. Beginning days after the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Schrage spent much of the last year volunteering and researching border and human security challenges on the Ukraine-Poland border. He also served in the executive branch as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and as the Foreign Policy Director and in other headquarters policy roles for major presidential campaigns. Schrage has considerable Congressional experience as a Senate Chief of Staff, International Trade Counsel for the Ways and Means Committee, and on the policy team of the Speaker of the House. His first day at the Commission was March 13, 2023
North Macedonia's Leadership of the OSCE in a time of warTuesday, February 28, 2023
North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, including using the organization to condemn Russian aggression and hold the government of the Russian Federation to account, to launch international investigations on Russian war crimes, and to reestablish an OSCE mission on the ground in Ukraine. The OSCE has remained at the forefront despite Russian efforts to block consensus and undermine the Organization and its work. During this hearing, North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Bujar Osmani discussed North Macedonia’s priorities in the OSCE and how it will address Russia’s war on Ukraine and other regional challenges. The hearing began with a reaffirmation of support from Chairman Joe Wilson, “We are shoulder to shoulder on a bipartisan basis when it comes to the principles of the OSCE, and enforcing them, and shining light on some of the challenges we have – the most serious of which, of course, is Vladimir Putin’s illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. It matters to our friends in North Macedonia. It matters to citizens of the United States of America. It matters to every member of the OSCE.” Commissioner Mike Lawler added that he is very concerned that “if Vladimir Putin is allowed to succeed in Ukraine, he will not stop there…The Ukrainian people deserve our support. The Ukrainian government deserves our support.” Mirroring this, Minister Osmani started his address by stating; “We are living in a time of war and conflicts and unprecedented turmoil and continuous tension across the OSCE. The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a blow to European and human security.” Under this backdrop, Minister Osmani identified his three priorities as being firstly Ukraine, secondly protracted conflicts, and lastly organization functionality. Minister Osmani declared Ukraine the key security priority and his overarching priority for his Chairpersonship. He called for the “Russian Federation to immediately stop this war, withdraw its troops from Ukraine, [and] recommit to the principles and values of the OSCE and to diplomacy.” Under North Macedonia’s leadership, the organization hopes to reinforce the principles and commitments of the OSCE as the foundation of European security and cooperation. Asserting that in order to foster meaningful dialogue, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine must end. Only then can they engage in credible confidence-building exercises. The war in Ukraine poses the potential to escalate latent and protracted conflicts in the region. “It affects our engagement in Eastern Europe, in the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and Western Balkans. It affects the performance of our field missions… and obstructs our ability to implement a positive agenda for the institution and to engage proactively in the search for durable solutions, critical for pan-European security, stability, and prosperity” explained Minister Osmani. Responding to Commissioner Victoria Spartz’ question on the OSCE’s action plan, Minister Osmani emphasized the need to preserve the functionality of the organization, so that a balance is made between the “change of functionality of the Organization and maintaining the ongoing activities, mainly with the field operations across the OSCE region.” Chairman Joe Wilson expressed interest in issues across the region to which Minister Osmani reported progress made between Kosovo and Serbia, emphasized focus on Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and urged continued peacetime reconciliation, reforms, and European integration. Representative Spartz also inquired about issues in Central Asia. To which Minister Osmani highlighted the five field operations in all five participating States in Central Asia and expressed concerns over the repercussions following the Taliban takeover and climate change in the region. Minister Osmani was forthright about serious challenges the OSCE faces. The organization has no budget approved and has the possibility of a leadership vacuum at the end of the year if there is no consensus achieved. Sharing that the Permanent Council has only approved a partial extension of the mission in Moldova. Thus, the OSCE can provide a platform for communication, but it’s ultimately up to 56 participating states and their willingness to engage, compromise, and maintain dialogue to find common ground on issues. For more information, please contact Janice Helwig of the Commission staff at 202-225-1901. Related information Witness Biography
HEARING: NORTH MACEDONIA’S LEADERSHIP OF THE OSCE IN A TIME OF WARFriday, February 24, 2023
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Streaming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNgAOyC9f5g North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, including using the organization to condemn Russian aggression and hold the government of the Russian Federation to account, to launch international investigations on Russian war crimes, and to reestablish an OSCE mission on the ground in Ukraine. The OSCE has remained at the forefront despite Russian efforts to block consensus and undermine the Organization and its work. Other challenges in the region include spillover effects of Putin’s war in Ukraine, the extension of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and backsliding in some countries on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Anti-Semitic attacks and rhetoric continue to be on the rise, and vulnerable communities are targets of discrimination and violence. Combating human trafficking has taken on a renewed urgency as millions of vulnerable women and children have fled Ukraine. Attacks on independent media continues in some OSCE participating States, including Russia, Belarus and most recently, Kyrgyzstan. At this hearing, North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Bujar Osmani will discuss North Macedonia’s priorities in the OSCE and how it will address Russia’s war on Ukraine and other regional challenges.
U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA presents Joint Statement on Russia’s War in UkraineFriday, February 24, 2023
WASHINGTON— Today, the U.S. Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) endorsed the “Joint Statement of Action on the One-Year Anniversary of Russia’s War Against Ukraine and the International Legal Order,” which was endorsed by the OSCE PA Bureau and published today at the conclusion of the 2023 OSCE PA Winter Meeting. Members of the U.S. Delegation include Head of Delegation and Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Helsinki Commission Chair Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Commissioners Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-09), and Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33). Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-37) also participated in the delegation. Following a dedicated debate marking the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Assembly issued the statement to condemn Russia’s years-long clear, gross, and uncorrected violations of its commitments under the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and subsequent OSCE commitments. Click here to read the Joint Statement
Steadfast Support for Ukraine: United States Delegation Hosts Ukrainian and Partner Country Parliamentarians on the Margins of the OSCE Parliamentary AssemblyThursday, February 23, 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, the United States Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA), led by Senator Ben Cardin (MD), met with Mykyta Poturaiev, Ukraine’s Head of Delegation and additional representatives of the Ukrainian Rada in Vienna, Austria, along with the Heads of Delegation of Canada, Estonia, France, Latvia, Poland, and the United Kingdom. On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the parliamentary leaders in attendance pledged their sustained and steadfast support for Ukraine to counter Russian aggression: “We will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over its 1991 borders. A year after Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we recommit to combining our efforts to redress this injustice and hold Russia to account for its crimes, including by seeking its suspension from the Parliamentary Assembly (PA). We further urge the PA to host annual sessions and meetings in OSCE participating States prepared to block the participation of Russia’s representatives. We will not allow Russia’s reprehensible propaganda to go unchallenged at the OSCE PA or any other international forum. The world must hold Russia accountable for its aggression and for the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide it is committing against the people of Ukraine. All of us are committed to the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine and seek restitution from Russia to this end. “To the people of Ukraine: as you suffer Russia’s attacks on your cities and fight the aggressor in the battlefield, know that you are never alone in your courageous struggle for a secure and democratic future. As missiles rain down and the lights go out, and as you mourn all those you have lost, we mourn with you and share your fight for Ukrainian victory. You have our admiration and above all, our gratitude, as we remain resolutely at your side in solidarity and partnership.” Joining U.S. Head of DelegationSenator Ben Cardin were delegation members Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Commissioners Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-09), Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33), and Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Lloyd Doggett (TX-37). The Ukrainian delegation consisted of Mr. Mykyta Poturaiev, Head of Delegation; Mr. Artur Gerasymov, Deputy Head of Delegation, Mr. Pavlo Frolov, Ms. Irina Gerashchenko, Ms. Evgeniia Kravchuk, and Ms. Nataliia Pipa. Heads of delegations present included Dr. Hedy Fry (Canada), Mr. Sven Sester (Estonia), Mr. Didier Paris (France), Mr. Rihards Kols (Latvia), Ms. Barbara Bartuś (Poland), and Sir John Whittingdale (United Kingdom).
By Emma Derr,
Max Kampelman Fellow
A novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Termed COVID-19, the disease spread rapidly around the globe. As of October 2020, 1.18 million people have died from COVID-19, and over 227,000 of these deaths have occurred in the United States.
COVID-19 is one of the most devastating public health crises since the Spanish Flu of 1918. From hospital beds to protective gear, governments across the world face significant challenges in combating its morbidity and death rates.
In addition to the domestic coronavirus policies implemented at the national level, multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have taken their own steps to curb the vast negative impacts of the novel coronavirus.
Examples of Coronavirus Policy Responses across the OSCE Region
Countries in the OSCE region have developed a wide variety of policies to combat the significant public health, political, and economic challenges caused by the coronavirus.
As the number of cases has surged or declined in various countries, coronavirus restrictions are changing on a weekly basis. In most countries, policies exist at a national level, and many countries have also imposed regional restrictions. In the United States, state and local authorities impose their own restrictions.
The varying responses of the United States, Sweden, France, and Turkmenistan illustrate the many coronavirus policy differences that exist in the OSCE region. The scientific publication “Our World in Data,” in collaboration with the University of Oxford, created a “Government Response Stringency Index” using nine response indicators, including school closures and travel bans. With 100 as the strictest ranking, the index currently ranks the United State at 62.5, France at 46.76, and Sweden at 37.04. Turkmenistan is not on the index.
Government Response Stringency Index as of October 28, 2020. Graphic courtesy of Our World in Data.
In the United States, federal action largely has been confined to restrictions on international travel and immigration, with state governors enacting their own policies concerning closures and restrictions.
State policies differ in scope and timeline but most center around issues such as face mask requirements, the number of people who can gather, health guidelines for business operations, social distancing measures, state travel restrictions and quarantine orders, restaurant and bar capacities, prohibitions on non-essential medical procedures, and in-person or online school decisions.
Local officials, such as state health officers and mayors, have also imposed restrictions at the county or city level, sometimes in conflict with more or less stringent state-level guidance.
State restrictions change rapidly, but the New York Times has created a map with up-to-date state data and policy actions.
The French government first locked down the country on March 17, requiring citizens to provide travel permits when leaving their homes. In May, France began to gradually reopen schools and public transport at the same time as other European countries, such as Belgium and Spain, eased restrictions. Masks are mandated on public transit and recommended when social distancing guidelines cannot be followed.
According to France’s government website, as of October, local curfews were imposed in the Paris region, as well as eight other cities. These changes arrive amid a European “second wave,” which includes a spike in coronavirus cases in France. On October 29, another lockdown was announced and is expected to extend until December 1. All nonessential travel outside the home is strictly prohibited as it was with the first lockdown, but this time around, schools will remain open.
In the spring of 2020, Sweden kept its borders open, and became one of the few OSCE participating States that did not go into lockdown. Instead, gatherings of over 50 people, sporting events, and visits to nursing homes were prohibited; bars, restaurants and schools remained open.
The general advice issued by the Public Health Agency of Sweden reminds citizens to stay at home when experiencing symptoms, wash their hands regularly, and socially distance from one another. The agency does not recommend face masks in public spaces.
Due to its high per capita death rate, Swedish health officials recently released national restrictions on nightclubs, as well as other regional measures. On October 26, new local guidelines were introduced in Uppsala and Malmo, where cases have been increasing. Residents were told to avoid public transport and to only socialize with people within their households.
Turkmenistan is the only OSCE participating State to deny that it has been affected by COVID-19. There is significant doubt both in the international community and among Turkmen NGOs that this is the case. There have been numerous deaths of high-level government officials and people in prisons reportedly due to “pneumonia.” Humanitarian concerns have been raised as patients with COVID-19 symptoms have been overwhelming hospitals.
Although the World Health Organization visited the country and did not directly contradict the official narrative, following the visit, Turkmen authorities imposed “preventive” restrictions similar to those in other countries. The country has restricted travel and border crossings; closed restaurants, shopping malls, theaters, and parks; and mandated the use of masks and social distancing in public.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 57 participating States. Leaders of OSCE institutions and offices have stated their continuing commitments to OSCE principles and stress the importance of unity and solidarity as its nations fight to control the pandemic.
“Now is the time for unity. The COVID-19 virus does not distinguish between peoples or countries; its threat is universal. This underscores that security is common, comprehensive and indivisible,” said the Chair of the OSCE Permanent Council Igli Hasani and his colleagues in a letter earlier this year.
The OSCE seeks to provide leadership through guidelines and policy recommendations that address the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. The organization has also been active in examining the economic, environmental, and security implications of the coronavirus across the OSCE region.
“In today’s highly interconnected world, it is necessary to have strong solidarity and a cooperative approach at all levels: community, state, regional, and global,” stated Vuk Zugic, OSCE Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities.
Minority Groups and Vulnerable Populations
On the Helsinki on the Hill podcast “Communities at Risk,” Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, the former OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and a current OSCE PA High-Level Expert, spoke about providing protection for the most vulnerable during this health crisis.
“We felt that the issue of protecting the diversity of the society and ensuring that all social groups are included in the policies, and there is an equal treatment for all, was not at the forefront of the concerns of many governments,” he said.
“We started to see problems of discrimination. We started to see problems with hate speech. We started seeing problems with access of some of the population to basic services.”
In March, as OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Zannier released recommendations for short-term responses to COVID-19 to support social cohesion in OSCE states, and in April, the HCNM released a full set of policy recommendations that call on countries to take into account diversity when implementing state emergency measures, such as providing public services and media communications in minority languages.
Voting and Elections
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is mandated to address issues related to democracy, human rights, and rule of law, including freedom of the press, freedom of movement, and democratic elections. ODIHR released a report in October outlining best alternative voting practices in the context of COVID-19, focusing on secrecy, equality, and universality.
ODIHR also conducted an empirical survey of survivors of human trafficking and issued a report in June that examined the impact of COVID-19 on human trafficking trends and recommended how OSCE states could respond.
According to OSCE PA Special Representative on Trafficking in Persons and former Helsinki Commission Chair Rep. Chris Smith, “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the vulnerability of children to becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Today, with most schools closed, children are spending more of their time online where they are vulnerable to being groomed by sexual predators and lured into trafficking situations. One way we can fight this and protect our children now is by education to keep them safe online and by developing age-appropriate training tools for children, parents and educators.”
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) has hosted several webinars focused on the effects of the coronavirus on human rights and democracy.
The webinar titled “COVID’s impact on conflicts in the OSCE region” addressed obstacles to conflict resolution, humanitarian aid efforts, and implementation of the fundamental principles agreed to under the Helsinki Final Act.
Helsinki Commissioner and Chair of the OSCE PA General Committee on Political Affairs and Security Rep. Richard Hudson attended the discussion and stated his concern over “the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential to further inflame existing conflicts in the OSCE area or potentially generate new ones.”
He said it was important for the Parliamentary Assembly to stay informed on the OSCE’s role in the conflict cycle, specifically in Ukraine and Georgia. Other speakers emphasized his message and noted that people in conflict zones are on one of the most dangerous frontlines of the pandemic.
In May, the OSCE PA hosted a webinar titled “Respecting Human Rights and Maintaining Democratic Control During States of Emergency.”
In his comments, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) emphasized the importance of protecting fundamental freedoms. “I am sorry, but not surprised that some governments have taken the need for emergency measures as an opportunity for repressive measures,” he stated. “Hungary is the only OSCE participating State that does not have a sunset clause for the expiration of its emergency measures or requiring parliamentary approval for an extension. Parliamentary oversight is absolutely essential, especially when governments seek to exercise extraordinary powers.”
During the webinar, Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Helsinki Commission Ranking Member and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, also addressed concerning aspects of COVID-19 emergency responses.
“Emergency provisions which restrict freedom of speech or freedom of the media are especially concerning and may actually undermine our efforts to address this health emergency. We need to ensure that journalists, medical professionals, scientists and others can provide the public with information we need to battle COVID,” he said.
OSCE Field Missions
OSCE field missions have been actively adapting to support host countries’ needs during this pandemic.
Since April, several missions have helped to provide medical supplies and equipment to their host countries. The OSCE Presence in Albania, a field operation that cooperates with Albania’s Border and Migration Police, donated medical supplies to Albania’s Border Police in May. The team also visited border crossing points to assess existing protocols. The OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe provided protective gear and sanitizing supplies to its partners in Tajikistan, and the OSCE mission to Montenegro delivered food and hygiene products to support the country’s Red Cross.
Handover of personal protective equipment to Regional Health Administration of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region on July 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of OSCE/Umed Qurbonov)
The Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has been impacted by the pandemic by restrictions on mission member movement, but the mission nevertheless continues to be a key international actor in the country, informing on developments in the conflict areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.