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.
Russia's Alpine Assets: Money Laundering and Sanctions Evasion in SwitzerlandTuesday, July 18, 2023
Switzerland has for years been a primary destination for Russian money laundering and, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a weak link in Western sanctions enforcement. This Helsinki Commission hearing examined Switzerland’s poor track record of rooting out dirty Russian money and examined potential paths forward for U.S. policymakers in persuading Switzerland to uphold its commitments to its democratic partners. Bill Browder, head of the Magnitsky Global Justice Campaign, outlined his own experiences with Swiss officials undermining investigations into the money laundering cases linked to Sergei Magnitsky’s discovery of over $230 million in tax fraud by Russian officials. Browder traced Swiss officials’ attempts to direct corruption by Russian money, stating that Switzerland “wants to be seen as doing something while in reality doing nothing” to continue profiting off of Russian assets. Since the Swiss legal and regulatory systems have both failed to show a commitment to effective oversight of Russian money, Browder asked commissioners and other government officials to consider targeted sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against Swiss officials involved in quashing the investigations in question, including the sitting Prosecutor General. Drew Sullivan, co-founder and publisher of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), testified that Swiss financial regulators prioritize the interests of the Swiss banking sector over true oversight and legal compliance, emphasizing that a fair audit of Swiss banks would show what his organization estimates is over $400 billion in illegal money, much of which is linked to Russia. Mr. Sullivan urged U.S. and EU policymakers to exercise their regulatory jurisdiction over dollar- and euro-denominated accounts to force Swiss banks into compliance with stronger transparency regulations. He views severe pressure from other democratic governments as the only way to ensure more responsible Swiss financial regulation. Olena Tregub, secretary general of the Ukrainian civil society organization the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO), underlined Switzerland’s hypocritical narrative of neutrality given that Switzerland is the leading European country in terms of dual-use weapons components found in Russian arms. Additionally, Switzerland’s lax sanctions enforcement has allowed the country to become a safe haven for Russian money despite Switzerland nominally joining EU sanctions regimes against Russia. Tregub advocated for a U.S.-led multilateral working group, including Switzerland, to prevent the export of dual-use technologies to Russia as well as additional pressure on Switzerland to enforce European sanctions it has already agreed to. Commissioners thanked witnesses for bringing visibility to Switzerland’s need for improvement in these areas and questioned them on what the most effective U.S. responses would be, as well as how likely they think their proposed solutions are to be implemented.
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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).
Helsinki Commissioners Urge Austria to Deny Visas to Russian Delegation Ahead of OSCE PA Winter MeetingWednesday, February 15, 2023
WASHINGTON – Helsinki Commission leadership, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson, Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Steve Cohen, on February 10, sent a letter to Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg to reconsider granting visas to the Russian delegation to the Winter Meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, taking place in Vienna next week. The Winter Meeting will coincide with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, February 24th, 2022, and is set to be the first in-person gathering of the Parliamentary Assembly with Russian and Belarusian participation since the start of the war. The United States and European Union have sanctioned every member of the Russian delegation for having explicitly endorsed Vladimir Putin's war of aggression on Ukraine and his claim to have annexed vast swathes of Ukrainian territory. Read the letter in PDF form above.
THE ALARMING RISE IN ANTISEMITISM AND ITS THREAT TO DEMOCRACYTuesday, December 13, 2022
In response to a rise in antisemitism in the United States and abroad, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on December 13, 2022, featuring experts on preventing and combatting it. Witnesses testified about current development and how best to respond, as well as reinforced the important role of multilateral cooperation. In an increasingly global world where antisemitism can spread rapidly online, witnesses stressed that every country has a responsibility to combat anti-Semitism, as it has serious implications for democracy. Opening the hearing, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) expressed his alarm at the shocking rise of antisemitic speech and attacks in recent years in both the United States and Europe. Popular entertainers and public figures such as rapper and producer “Ye,” formerly Kanye West, have spread antisemitic tropes to their followers on social media or through public statements. Antisemitic disinformation and conspiracy theories proliferated in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that statements by public figures and online disinformation not only serve to normalize prejudice and discrimination, but they also can incite extremism and violent attacks. President Putin has even tried to justify Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine through perversely antisemitic statements claiming the invasion was an effort to “de-Nazify” the country, notwithstanding its Jewish president. He highlighted the destructive role of disinformation and the importance of educational programs, calling for a unified strategy to combat antisemitism across government and society: “We must speak out loudly and clearly against antisemitism when it occurs. As leaders, we must lead and fight against hate. We cannot allow antisemitism or any type of prejudice or intolerance to be normalized,” he said. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) raised questions about the cause of the recent increase in antisemitism. Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) condemned the rise of antisemitism around the world, highlighted the important work the U.S. Helsinki Commission and the OSCE have done to combat it, and called on countries to take more action: “... it is clear what I stated last week, that antisemitism cannot be tolerated in any situation or under any circumstances. I’m very concerned by the rise of antisemitic incidents over the past several years, both in the United States and Europe.” Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03) expressed his disgust at the alarming rise of antisemitism in the United States and Europe, raising concerns about Holocaust denial and securing places of worship: “It seems that every day and every week there’s another bomb threat at a Jewish day school, another discovery of antisemitic graffiti spraypainted on a college campus, or, at its worst, a shooting at a synagogue.” Rep. Marc Veasey (TX -33) inquired about what Congress should do in response to the rapid acceleration of antisemitism and extremism online: “We know that century-old antisemitic tropes are being increasingly mainstreamed and normalized due, in part, to social media and the amplification of problematic individuals.” Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT), discussed how to improve hate-crime legislation as well as how to come to terms with the history of antisemitism in the United States: “One of the innovations that we included in hate-crimes legislation was to give judges the option in sentencing to require that the convicted defendant, the perpetrator, perform acts of community service that put him or her in direct – in direct contact with the community who was the victim of the hate crime." Senator Rosen (NV) described how she co-led a bipartisan and bicameral letter signed by 126 members of Congress calling on President Biden to develop a unified national strategy to monitor and combat antisemitism: “I’m proud to say, just last night [Dec. 12, 2022] the White House heeded our call, announcing the formation of an interagency task force to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. And its first order of business is to develop a national strategy to combat anti-Semitism." She also outlined specific actions that the United States must pursue including addressing online antisemitism, allocating increased resources to provide physical security for Jewish institutions, educating students about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, improving hate crimes data collection and reporting, and advancing a whole-of-government approach to combat this issue. Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism at the U.S. State Department reiterated the importance of international coalition building and multilateral institutions in coordinating responses to antisemitism. She highlighted that antisemitism is often inextricably linked to prejudice and violence against other groups and religions: “Antisemitism is not a niche issue. It’s not just about helping or protecting Jews. As you entitled this hearing, it’s also a danger to democracy. Jews are the canary in the coal mine. If something is – if anti-Semitism is manifesting itself, other hatreds cannot be far behind." She also mentioned positive international developments, specifically in the Middle East such as Abraham Accords, and described how countries are starting to rethink their attitudes about antisemitism. Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism as well as Director of International Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), described the steps OSCE governments should take to better tackle this issue. He emphasized the importance of accurate data collection, securing Jewish community buildings, and expanding Holocaust education in Europe. He also described that preventing the spread of antisemitism online is perhaps the most difficult part of the problem to solve: “We are outnumbered and out-funded by the social media giants. Content monitors are no match for algorithms designed to push grievance as the basic business model.” Members brought several concerns and questions to witnesses about the source of the recent rise of antisemitism, the importance of Holocaust education, how best to allocate resources to secure religious and community spaces, the value of differentiatng among different types of hate crime, and how to halt the rapid spread of antisemitism online. For more information, please contact Janice Helwig, Senior Policy Advisor, at Janice.Helwig@mail.house.gov
Helsinki Commission Announces Briefing on US-Europe Coalition for Russia SanctionsMonday, December 12, 2022
WASHINGTON—At a virtual kickoff event on December 13, Co-Chairman Cohen and Ranking Member Wilson launched the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions. NO SAFE HAVEN Launching the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions Tuesday, December 13, 2022 8:30 a.m. EST Since February 24, 2022, Western countries have imposed sanctions against Russian officials, businessmen, and public figures who support Russian aggression against Ukraine by financial or political means. Personal sanctions have been effective in creating tension between Putin’s proponents and continuing to help Ukraine fight for its independence. The biggest issue of personal sanctions policy is desynchronization among the countries imposing them. For example, when the United States enacts sanctions against politicians, public officials, and businessmen who support Russia’s war, the European Union and the United Kingdom do not. A similar dysfunction occurs when the European Union and Great Britain enforce sanctions on individuals without equal participation from the United States. The unity of the West in imposing sanctions on those driving Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is essential for Ukrainian victory. This public briefing will unite seven legislators from the United States, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland. The panelists will announce the creation of the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions, which will synchronize the sanctions policy between the European Union, Ukraine, and the USA. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Representative Steve Cohen — Member of Congress, Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, United States Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson — Member of Congress, Commissioner of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, United States Member of Parliament Oleksii Goncharenko — Chairman of the Ukrainian parliament caucuses "For free Caucasus" and "For democratic Belarus", Ukraine Member of Parliament Dr. Robert Seely, MBE — British Conservative Party politician who has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Isle of Wight since June 2017. Member of Parliament Eerik Kross — head of the Estonian delegation in PACE, Estonia Member of the EU Parliament Petras Austrevicius — serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Lithuania Member of the Sejm Arkadius Mularczyk — Secretary of State for European Affairs, Leader of the Polish delegation to the Council of Europe, Poland
OSCE’s 2022 Ministerial Council in Lodz: Russia Isolated as States Demand Accountability and Reaffirm CommitmentsFriday, December 09, 2022
By Janice Helwig, Senior Policy Advisor, Demitra Pappas, Senior Advisor Department of State, Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to OSCE Foreign Ministers and senior officials from the 57 participating States and 11 Asian and Mediterranean partners of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened the OSCE Ministerial Council in Lodz, Poland on December 1-2. While the OSCE Ministerial is held annually, this year’s meeting was atypical, due to its taking place amid the greatest crisis in European security since World War II, namely Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. States Accuse Russia and Belarus of Violating Principles, Stand with Ukraine Polish-Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in his opening remarks pointedly blamed Russia for destroying the security order and attempting to undermine the Organization. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, abetted by Belarus, violated each of the politico-military, democratic, human rights, and economic and environmental commitments enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, an agreement that underpinned European security for nearly 50 years. Most fundamentally, the Lodz Ministerial underscored participating States’ desire to return to the founding principles of the OSCE - the Helsinki Final Act – and to call out Russia’s violation of each. Participating State after participating State took the floor to reaffirm their OSCE commitments and to call Russia to account. Russia was entirely isolated, with only Belarus attempting, pathetically, to deflect blame on others for “corroding” the spirit of Helsinki. At each instance, participating States overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for OSCE principles and denounced Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine, declared solidarity with Ukraine, and demanded accountability for war crimes, the crime of aggression, and violations of international humanitarian law. Participating States also voiced strong support for the work of the OSCE’s autonomous institutions, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Representative of the Freedom of the Media in particular, whose mandates and funding are often in Russia’s crosshairs. Many participating States also noted the importance of the three “Moscow Mechanism” reports issued this past year to document Russia’s violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine and its repression of human rights at home. A joint statement delivered by Finland on behalf of 42 other participating States condemned Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and called for perpetrators to be held accountable. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Margareta Cederfelt advocated establishing a high-level body to assess reparations from Russia. Two other aspects of the Ministerial were unique. Absent were the annual negotiations among participating States on decisions designed to enhance existing commitments on cooperative security, which the Polish Chair assessed as unfeasible due to Russian intransigence. Also absent was Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, against whom Poland took a principled stand to exclude from attending. OSCE Continued Work in 2022, Despite Russia’s Objections States also used their interventions to welcome OSCE’s development of new approaches in 2022 with regard to sustaining its human rights work and presence in Ukraine to overcome Russia’s attempts to undermine the Organization. In the years leading up to the Ministerial, Russia had increased its abuse of OSCE’s consensus-decision making to block the Organization’s budget, to close OSCE’s three field missions in Ukraine, and to prevent the convening of OSCE’s signature, annual human rights conference, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). Yet despite its concerted efforts, Russia failed to block OSCE’s human rights work or eradicate its work in Ukraine. “On the contrary,” as U.S. delegation head, Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland observed in Lodz, the OSCE “has said no to Moscow’s efforts to divide it, to paralyze it, to destroy it.” Nuland added, the Organization has emerged “even stronger, more flexible, more resilient” under Poland’s stewardship and that of Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid. After Russia blocked the HDIM, the Polish Chairmanship convened the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference (WHDC) in September, conducting a full review of human rights commitments with the participation of more than one thousand governmental and civil society representatives in attendance. In November, the Secretariat stood up a donor-funded “Support Programme Ukraine” which reestablished an OSCE presence in the country. These are examples of how the OSCE has continued to promote Helsinki principles and deliver programming in spite of Russia’s attempts to undermine it. Side Events, Civil Society Parallel Conference Seek to Close Russia’s “Accountability Gap” A range of side events amplified concerns of participating States and civil society regarding the terrible human toll of Russia’s war and the need for accountability. The first side event explored the increased risk of human trafficking among Ukrainian citizens fleeing the conflict and the illegal abduction and forced adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia. The establishment of a Group of Friends on Children in Armed Conflict was also announced. A side event moderated by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba outlined various means to hold Russia accountable for atrocities committed in Ukraine, including providing support to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office and to the International Criminal Court through the collection evidence of crimes and aiding in investigations. Minister Kuleba strongly advocated for the establishment of a Special Tribunal to prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression and received broad support. An event featuring Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other activists drew renewed attention to the plight of thousands of political prisoners in Belarus and called for the invocation of another Moscow Mechanism report to document ongoing human rights violations by the government of Belarus. Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), a regional association of human rights civil society organizations, hosted its annual Parallel Civil Society Conference on November 30 which likewise called on participating States to ensure accountability for perpetrators of war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. In response to CSP’s long-standing call for closer collaboration between the OSCE and civil society, North Macedonia, which assumes the Chairmanship of OSCE in 2023, committed to appoint a Special Representative on Civil Society Organizations. Looking Ahead to 2023: North Macedonia Despite Russia’s isolation, its war against Ukraine continues even as Poland plans to pass the leadership of the Organization to North Macedonia as of January 1, 2023. As the incoming Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani pledged that North Macedonia’s tenure “will be guided by strict observance of OSCE principles and commitments.” He further stressed the cooperative nature of regional security, noting, “Safeguarding OSCE values and respect for international law must be a shared priority. This is of utmost importance. Rebuilding trust and engaging in meaningful dialogue presupposes full compliance with the agreed OSCE commitments and principles. We all have to be accountable for our actions. This is the formula for the way forward.”
Tribute to Robert Hand for Forty Years of Service at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in EuropeTuesday, October 18, 2022
Recognizing Robert “Bob” A. Hand for 40 years of service to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Whereas Robert (Bob) Hand has given 40 years of faithful service to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, making him the longest serving staff of the United States Helsinki Commission to date; Whereas he is a highly respected expert on the Western Balkans with his work being invaluable during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, he was focused on holding accountable those responsible for atrocities such as the Srebrenica genocide in 1995 and the murder of the Albanian-American Bytyqi brothers in Serbia in 2001, and he kept Commissioners up to date on developments in the region, including in Albania, where he is also known for his expert analysis; Whereas having served on numerous United States delegations to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meetings, observed dozens of elections, and served as a mission member on one of the OSCE’s first field missions, the OSCE Missions of Long Duration in Kosovo, Sandjak, and Vojvodina while stationed in Novi Pazar in 1993, Bob’s institutional expertise and memory on the OSCE has been vital to both the Helsinki Commission and the Department of State; Whereas in his role as the Secretary of the United States delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), Bob deftly and tirelessly guaranteed that the delegation was always well-prepared to engage with our counterparts from other countries and that our proposals and resolutions had the best possible chance for adoption; Whereas his deep expertise on procedural matters and election monitoring, among other processes, made him an extraordinarily effective advocate and negotiator for United States interests and for human rights and democracy throughout his time as Secretary of the United States delegation; Whereas no major meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly could be considered “typical”, with an enormous variety of subjects discussed, new procedures created, and different Members of Congress participating on the United States delegation from meeting to meeting, Bob rose to a huge diversity of challenges as Secretary of the United States delegation, and he ensured that Members could meaningfully participate and contribute, and that the United States presence was impactful in every meeting he coordinated; Whereas during annual sessions in particular, Bob’s calm demeanor and deep knowledge of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly processes helped all members of the delegation, whether Commissioners or not, whether it was their 1st or 15th time at an OSCE PA meeting, to know where they were supposed to be, when they were voting, what issues were at stake, and when they were scheduled to speak; Whereas ahead of OSCE’s yearly gatherings, Bob skillfully collected signatures from other delegations for United States initiatives in the Parliamentary Assembly as well as secured support from Members for important supplementary items and amendments fielded by other delegations; Whereas at the 2022 OSCE PA Annual Session in Birmingham, Bob worked diligently with several other delegations to ensure that a critical resolution condemning Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was adopted with the strongest possible language; Whereas the United States delegation had a 100-percent success rate at the 2022 OSCE PA Annual Session with the joint Ukraine resolution submitted by the United States, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian delegations, and all United States amendments to committee resolutions and supplementary items adopted; Whereas over the years, Bob guided the United States delegation through elections for OSCE PA leadership and helped secure positions for United States Members as OSCE PA President, Vice Presidents, and committee Chairs to make up the OSCE PA Bureau as well as positions on ad hoc committees and appointments as Special Representatives on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, Human Trafficking Issues, and on Political Prisoners; Whereas Bob was instrumental in ensuring that the COVID pandemic in no way diminished the United States delegation’s consistent and meaningful impact, and that United States objectives were advanced at each and every opportunity despite the unprecedented shift to online formats spanning multiple time zones; Whereas Bob was always guided by a clear sense that what the United States says matters in a body such as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, he prioritized principles over dialogue for its own sake, and he served the Commission’s mandate faithfully and tirelessly; and Whereas his longstanding relationships with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly leadership, staff, and other parliamentarians mean his departure will be felt not only by the Commission but by many of our friends in the OSCE region who have worked with him over the years: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives— (1) recognizes Robert A. Hand’s 40 years of dedicated service to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (United States Helsinki Commission); (2) appreciates his sound policy guidance on the Balkans and other regions throughout his time with the Commission; (3) congratulates him on his successes as Secretary of the United States delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly; and (4) wishes him all the best in the next chapters of his personal and professional endeavors.
Decolonizing the Russian EmpireWednesday, September 28, 2022
Russia’s war of conquest in Ukraine has shocked the world for its brutality and aggression. But the Kremlin’s violent designs in Ukraine, and other military adventures in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, are part of a larger and longer legacy of Russian imperialism that directly threaten its neighbors and imprison a multitude of nations within its authoritarian empire. This side event explores the destructive effects of Russian imperialism and how the unfolding genocide in Ukraine is a natural outgrowth of these colonial policies. Drawing on regional perspectives of those victimized by Russia’s brutal empire, the panel will highlight the realities of Russian colonialism and what a process of decolonization—elevating marginalized voices and providing for their full political and civic self-expression—would mean for Russia and for its neighbors.
Helsinki Commission Alarmed By Reported Transport of S-300 Missile Systems by Russia into the Black SeaFriday, September 02, 2022
WASHINGTON—Following reports that the Sparta II, a Russian cargo ship, transported S-300 missile systems through the Turkish Straits, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following joint statement: “We are alarmed by Russia’s reported transport of S-300 missile systems through the Turkish Straits into the Black Sea. As Russia is waging a bloody, unprovoked war against Ukraine, it is critical that any supplies of arms to Moscow be cut off as quickly and efficiently as possible. Any additional weapon in the hands of the Kremlin would mean another Ukrainian who would lose his or her life to the aggressor. “As the gatekeeper to the Black Sea, Turkey must do everything in its power to stop the flow of arms to Russia. We are perplexed that while third parties were able to spot the ship as it was entering the straits, it appears the Turkish government failed to prevent it from delivering the missile systems to Russia. Such systems will inevitably be deployed to commit crimes against humanity. “We are sure that Turkey does not want to be complicit in this by failing to carry out its responsibilities. We urge Turkish authorities to clarify their role in allowing the Sparta II into the Black Sea.”
NATO Refocused, Europe ReinforcedWednesday, August 10, 2022
By Jessika Nebrat, Max Kampelman Fellow Following the escalation of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is playing a role it has not filled in years. Forced to reconcentrate its attention to Europe’s defense, NATO allies are demonstrating persistent resolve in countering Moscow’s expansionist tendencies. In doing so, NATO returns to a core facet of its founding mission: the defense against Moscow’s militarism. While NATO represents just one facet of the Euro-Atlantic security infrastructure, it is perhaps the most robust organization bound by formal agreements, dedicated to peacekeeping, and capable of enforcement. Its mission to “guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means” echoes the first dimension principles outlined by the Helsinki Final Act, and aligns NATO with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.S. Helsinki Commission. In supporting each other’s work, these institutions mutually reinforce their shared values and bolster European security. History of NATO In the aftermath of the second World War, the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations sought to boost European economic reconstruction and protect themselves from Soviet domination. The 1947 Treaty of Dunkirk predated NATO in promoting Atlantic alliance and mutual assistance between France and the United Kingdom. The agreement was expanded in March 1948 as the Treaty of Brussels to engage Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in military, economic, social, and cultural cooperation. In the same month, the United States hosted talks intended to unite both North American and Western European allies; as a result, NATO was officially signed into existence on April 4, 1949. The 12 founding member nations derived their legitimacy from United Nations (UN) Charter Article 51, which affirmed the right to collective defense. The foundational NATO Treaty mentioned collective defense only after declaring the parties’ commitments to finding peaceful resolutions of disputes, upholding UN principles, strengthening free institutions, and promoting economic collaboration. The Alliance formally defined its principal objectives to deter Soviet expansionism, oppose nationalist militarism on the continent, and bolster European political integration. Though it sought to deter military aggression, NATO’s original treaty did not provide any means of enforcing the agreed-upon principles. It was not until after the USSR’s 1949 detonation of an atomic bomb and the 1950 start of the Korean War that NATO approved a military command structure. In response, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Though neither of the two ideologically opposed organizations used force during the Cold War, they engaged in an arms race that persisted until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. NATO after the Cold War Once NATO no longer had to defend against Soviet expansionism, the Alliance broadened the scope of its peacekeeping and security enforcement missions. In the 1990s, NATO forces were deployed: to Turkey during the Gulf Crisis; upon request to Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States nations as part of a humanitarian mission after the fall of the USSR; to enforce a UN arms embargo and no-fly zone over former Yugoslavia; and in the Central Mediterranean during a period of tension with Libya. In the 21st century, NATO forces were also deployed during: the Second Gulf War; to the US and Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the only Article 5 invocation in NATO history; to mitigate rising ethnic tensions in North Macedonia; to counter terrorist activity in the Mediterranean; as counter-piracy escorts to UN World Food Programme ships transiting the Gulf of Aden; to train Iraqi security forces; to enforce a no-fly zone after the popular uprising in Libya; for peacekeeping in Sudan; and to provide disaster relief throughout Europe, the Middle East, and in the United States. NATO currently maintains active operations in Kosovo, the Mediterranean, Iraq, and throughout the African Union; it recently ramped up air policing as part of a peace-keeping response to the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the escalation against Ukraine this past February. Kremlin Narrative against NATO Over the years, Moscow has repeatedly resisted NATO enlargement – especially for countries it claims within its sphere of influence. Putin asserts that during a 1990 summit between President George H. W. Bush and President Gorbachev, the United States promised no further expansion of NATO; civil servants present at that meeting have refuted this claim, as has Mr. Gorbachev himself. In his conversation with Bush, Gorbachev repeatedly affirmed that nations have the right to make their own alliances. Though internal U.S. analyses of the 1990s suggested that expansion eastward may not be politically expedient, such positions never became official policy. The United States has remained resolute in its recognition of sovereign choice, and expansion has been driven by requests from former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states wary of Russian revanchism. The Kremlin has deployed an opposing narrative to justify Russian military engagements in Georgia in the early 2000s, and more recently in Ukraine. Putin sees the inclusion of either nation in NATO, and the political and economic liberalization that go with it, as threats to his regime’s stability. NATO membership would limit Russian interference in the internal affairs of either state. Additionally, if Russia’s neighbors and fellow post-Soviet states can become true democracies, provide higher quality of living, and ensure the rule of law, then why can’t Putin’s Russia? Any argument that NATO expansion threatens Russia misrepresents the organization, which is a diverse coalition dedicated to mutual defense and development. Moreover, such an assertion overlooks the efforts NATO has made to include and collaborate with Russia in the pursuit of cooperative security. NATO Back to its Roots By illegally and brutally invading Ukraine in February 2022 – a dramatic escalation of the grinding conflict started in 2014 – Putin has galvanized European and Western unity. Hearkening to its origins and returning attention to Eastern Europe, NATO is recommitting itself to “counter Russia’s attempts to destroy the foundations of international security and stability.” The international community is largely on board. In its collective attention beyond security, NATO – alongside other organizations – highlights not only the potential for, but the responsibility of the international community to condemn human rights violations, uphold the rule of law, and pursue economic health, all efforts that further challenge the Kremlin’s narrative that it can lead (or that there even needs to exist) an opposing bloc. Alarmed by Moscow’s renewed expansionism, Sweden and Finland have abandoned decades of neutrality in favor of NATO membership. They are on track towards the fastest accession process in history, and anticipate a smooth integration. Both already engage in the wider European community through membership in such organizations as the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Their force structures are robust, and well-versed in NATO procedures following decades of partnership; their accession will secure northeast Europe, expand NATO’s border with Russia, and reinforce NATO presence in the Arctic and Baltic Sea. Although the Kremlin initially vowed “military and political repercussions” were Finland and Sweden to join NATO, such threats have dulled to warnings about the installation of NATO military infrastructure nearer Russia’s borders; as Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership neared finalization, Putin even expressed “no problem” with these states joining the Alliance. It remains to be seen how this change will play out. After decades of orientation towards international stabilization, humanitarian, and counterinsurgency mission sets, NATO has been refocused on European deterrence and defense following the Kremlin’s violent assault on Ukraine. In addition to condemning Russia’s invasion and supporting Ukraine via such measures as the Comprehensive Assistance Package, NATO plays a critical role in championing European collective defense and discouraging any expansion of conflict.
Cardin, Shaheen, Wicker Introduce New Bipartisan Bill to Support Economic Development, Promote Democratic Resilience & Combat Corruption in the BalkansThursday, August 04, 2022
WASHINGTON – Helsinki Commission Chairman Ben Cardin (MD) with Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation and member of the Helsinki Commission, introduced new bipartisan legislation with Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) called the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act. This legislation would support economic development in the region through initiatives on infrastructure, trade and anti-corruption, including codification of sanctions to deter destabilizing activity In the Western Balkans. Sens. Durbin (IL), Tillis (NC), Van Hollen (MD) and Murphy (CT) also are original cosponsors of the bipartisan legislation. “While the Western Balkan nations have made great strides towards democratic governance since the end of the Yugoslav Wars, increasing political divisions and corruption threaten to erode this progress,” said Chairman Cardin. “We must continue to support our democratic partners and allies in the Balkans. This bipartisan bill will advance regional stability and anti-corruption efforts by establishing programs that encourage inclusive economic development, national anti-corruption strategy, and hold accountable those who threaten peace in the Western Balkans.” “Amid Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine and Putin’s clear ambitions to spread malign influence across Eastern Europe, the United States’ relationship with the Western Balkans is pivotal. That’s why I’m proud to introduce new bipartisan legislation that strengthens trade and investments between the U.S. and Western Balkans, while rooting out local corruption and codifying sanctions against destabilizing actors – all of which pave the way for greater Euro-Atlantic integration,” said Sen.Shaheen. “When I traveled to the Western Balkans in the Spring, I met with young leaders who shared their dreams of building a prosperous future in countries with strong democratic institutions and economic opportunity. Their stories – their visions of building a brighter future for the next generation – inspired my legislation. This region deserves every tool possible to build sustainable democracies, and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan bill that would foster relations between the U.S. and our Balkan partners and encourage greater regional integration.” “The Balkans are countries with a rich and varied heritage, and they also occupy an increasingly important position in European affairs,” said Sen. Wicker. “This bill would send a strong bipartisan signal that the United States is committed to supporting diplomacy in the region.” “As Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine rages on, we must not forget the hard won peace in the Balkans, which suffered terrible violence after the breakup of Yugoslavia. The United States and our allies contributed greatly to ending that horrific conflict, and this legislation reaffirms our commitment to seeing a stable future for the region—one squarely rooted in the West,” said Sen. Durbin. “The Balkans region is critical to Europe’s security, and we must deepen existing engagement with our partners as Russia continues its illegal war against Ukraine and threatens our NATO allies,” said Sen. Tillis. “In the spring, I was proud to visit Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Belgium with Senator Shaheen to hear from leaders of these countries and relay to our colleagues the importance of expanding economic opportunity and combating corruption. This bipartisan legislation will demonstrate our support for their efforts to advance democracy, and I will work with my colleagues to build support and pass it out of Congress.” “Despite Putin’s intent, his bloody war in Ukraine has not weakened our global alliances, but bolstered them. Increasing our partnerships with the Western Balkans will allow us to build on this and spur new economic cooperation between our nations. This legislation will help us capitalize on these opportunities as we continue to support strengthening democracy in the region,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “Maintaining peace in the Balkans is critical to European security, especially as Putin grows more desperate in Ukraine and may turn to other countries for a victory. During my trip to the region this spring, it was clear the United States must deepen our engagement. This legislation will strengthen U.S.-Balkan ties, expand economic opportunity, and support efforts to advance democracy and root out corruption,” said Senator Murphy. Specifically, the Western Balkans Democracy and Prosperity Act: Establishes a regional trade and economic competitiveness initiative, which would support democratic resilience, economic development and prosperity in the region. Establishes an anti-corruption initiative that directs the Secretary of State to provide technical assistance for each country in the Western Balkans to develop a national anti-corruption strategy. Codifies two U.S. executive orders that would grant authority for sanctions against those who threaten peace and stability in the Western Balkans and are engaged in corrupt behavior. Boosts university partnerships, encourages Peace Corps engagement in the region, creates a Balkans Youth Leadership Initiative and requires the Development Finance Corporation to open a previously announced office in the region. Full text of the bill is available here.
Co-Chairman Cohen Deplores Arrest of Ilya Yashin in RussiaThursday, July 28, 2022
WASHINGTON—In response to the arrest of Ilya Yashin, a Russian politician critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Putin’s government has been engaged in a systematic assault on Russian citizens who dare speak the truth about Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine. Ilya Yashin, a Russian patriot and a fierce critic of the war in Ukraine, is one of the victims of this regime. “Ilya spoke out against the war despite the cynical law Russia has adopted that punishes people speaking the truth on this conflict with up to 15 years in prison. He was arrested on trumped-up charges and is facing a lengthy jail term for no crime other than publicly speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ilya is a political prisoner and should be given all protections afforded by this status. The Russian government has a complete disregard for international law and customs but if they have an ounce of respect for their own laws, they will immediately release Ilya and other political prisoners.” Ilya Yashin, a co-founder of the Solidarity movement, is a member of a Moscow city district council. Throughout his career, he advocated for fair elections, rule of law, and democracy in Russia. Prior to his arrest, Mr. Yashin was one of the few Russian opposition activists who had not been killed, forced to flee, or imprisoned.
Co-Chairman Cohen Condemns Execution of Democracy Activists in MyanmarThursday, July 28, 2022
WASHINGTON—Following the execution of four democracy activists by Myanmar’s military junta, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “I strongly condemn the execution of these courageous activists by Myanmar’s unelected and illegitimate regime. These men—Kyaw Min Yu, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw—were political prisoners who were deprived of their right to due process and a chance to defend themselves. The junta sentenced them to death in secret trials, once again demonstrating the complete lack of respect for human life and common decency as well as a total disregard for rules-based order by which countries should abide. “The regime has jailed thousands, including the Nobel Peace laureate and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, after seizing power in a coup in February 2021. Following a series of closed-door hearings and a string of trumped-up charges and convictions each carrying additional sentencing, she was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison as of April 2022. In an obvious attempt to ensure she is jailed for life, she still faces added bogus charges that could see her imprisoned for more than 190 years by some reports. This is appalling and concerning as the recent executions confirm that the junta will not hesitate to murder political prisoners to further strengthen their rule of terror. “The world should unite to pressure Myanmar to release all political prisoners. At least 117 activists have been sentenced to death since the coup. We must do everything in our power to ensure that they do not face the grim fate of their four compatriots.”
By Erika Schlager, Commission Counsel for International Law
The thirteenth meeting of the Economic Forum of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe convened in Prague, the Czech Republic, from May 23-27, 2005. This year, Forum participants from 52 of the 55 OSCE participating States met under the broad theme of “Demographic Trends, Migration and Integrating Persons belonging to National Minorities: Ensuring Security and Sustainable Development in the OSCE Area.” 
Stephan Minikes, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, summarized the factors that drove the meeting’s focus on demographic, migration and related population issues:
“Given current demographic trends in much of the OSCE space, an increasing number of states will have to deal with migration on a larger scale. In many countries, the decline in workforce due to aging and shrinking populations cannot be arrested or reversed quickly enough through increased fertility. To maintain quality of life, sustainable development and support pension schemes, many countries will have to open their labor markets, and quickly. Inviting immigrants will force states not only to integrate them, but also to evaluate their immigration policies . . . .”
The Economic Forum, replicating what has been a growing trans-Atlantic public debate, gave particular attention to efforts to increase birthrates and to enhance migration from other regions that – for now – are experiencing population growth (at least relative to job availability).
With respect to the goal of increasing the birthrate, no single policy prescription emerged from the discussions. The Norwegian delegation described grass-roots driven policy changes that contributed to raising the birth rate in Norway – although it was only raised to 1.8 percent, still below replacement levels. A number of other speakers highlighted the need to develop policies to help women juggle both careers and parenting. In closing remarks, the U.S. delegation observed, “[w]hile we do not dispute this need, we believe that it is equally critical to keep in mind the parenting role of men as well.”
Conspicuously absent from the discussion was consideration of data on ethnic groups within countries. In several countries, for example, the demographic trend in the Romani minority differs from the ethnic majority: Romani communities often have a higher birth rate, shorter life-span and higher infant mortality. Nevertheless, although there is a Europe-wide demographic crisis, a few public officials in several countries, perhaps reflecting widespread social antagonisms toward the Romani community, argued for targeted programs to reduce the Romani birth rate.
In the discussion of migration trends, the economic and environmental factors that lead people to migrate were examined, as well as the implications of such migrations for both the countries that send and receive migrant populations. A few countries, including Albania, Armenia and Tajikistan, spoke from the perspective of a sending country, touching on both the positive (e.g., remittances) and negative (e.g., brain drain) aspects of population outflows.
Other sessions of the Prague Forum addressed population developments, including:
- Environment and migration;
- Providing services for migrants;
- Awareness raising and economic integration in countries of destination;
- Economic and social integration of national minorities; and
- Principles of integration of national minorities.
Four side events were held concurrently with the working sessions. They were:
- Migration and economic development of the sending countries (an event held with the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation);
- Implementing the Roma and Sinti Action Plan (economic and social aspects);
- The OSCE’s Anti-trafficking Program; and
- The Labor Migration Project in Armenia.
In his closing remarks, a representative of the Slovenian Chair-in-Office (CIO) noted a few suggestions that might serve as the basis for further OSCE work, including:
- Developing an action plan on migration issues;
- Formulating a statement of principles that might be adopted at the OSCE Ministerial in December;
- Developing a handbook on managing migration; and,
- Establishing an advisory group on migration issues under the umbrella of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities Coordinator.
The CIO representative noted that some of the recommendations went beyond the OSCE’s framework and mandate. In addition, during the discussions, a few countries (notably Turkey and France) noted that some speakers had advocated policy approaches that would not be acceptable to their capitals. Accordingly, it remains to be determined whether a consensus will be established for moving forward on any of these specific suggestions.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
- Stephan M. Minikes, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE
- Susan F. Martin, Professor at Georgetown University and Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University
- Ellen Thrasher, Associate Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
- Katherine A. Brucher, Deputy Political Counselor, U.S. Mission to the OSCE
- Robert Carlson, Political Officer, U.S. Mission to the OSCE
- Susan Archer, OSCE Desk Officer, U.S. Department of State
- Erika Schlager, Counsel for International Law, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
 (The three countries which had no representation during the course of the week were Andorra, Macedonia and Uzbekistan.)