What Can Be Expected from the Future OSCE Chairman?

By Andrew Slov

The subjects of priority may include energy security and the issues of Transnistria conflict regulation

Current Presidency of Kazakhstan at OSCE has become a pretty significant event in an international life. Those were right who said that this fact itself is able to give a definite impulse to the organization.

The first six months of the Chairmanship appeared to be quite active. There were enough initiatives and informational-propaganda accompanying. At least current Chairmanship of Astana in its informative aspect favorably differs from its predecessors – Spain, Finland and Greece. The outlines of the Presidency during the second half are also clear. The main event is the Summit the destiny of which is still undetermined.

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On this background even now there is logic in the question: what shall we expect from the future Chairman – Lithuania, also another Republic of the late USSR. What will Vilnius suggest? Is it able to guarantee active diplomacy being a Chairman-in-office in 2011?

Although, great surprises shouldn’t be expected, as many analysts think. Already today we can say that the priority of the prospect OSCE Chairman Lithuania, in common opinion, will be focused mainly on two key directions – security issues and energy security especially. There is nothing new about it as Lithuanian politicians stated this repeatedly. This April Lithuanian diplomats presented to their Moscow colleagues the subject of the priority of Lithuanian Chairmanship at the OSCE, and first of all they talked about energy security.

It’s the same obvious that within basic key issues of the OSCE referring to international security, the line of Vilnius will be more conventional, i.e. illustrating the established western approach. No initiatives or compromise discourses are foreseen. And even on the opposite, here the line of Lithuania has always been more conservative, than the line of so-called “old Europeans”.

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Lithuanian diplomacy considers that the events in Georgia in August 2008 revealed the lack of political will as in case of the compliance with the OSCE principles, as well as the liabilities and adopted decisions. And uncertainty, related to main agreements on armament control in Europe is another source of tension and concern. Exactly that is why we should fight for the observance of fundamental documents and principles of the organization, and not to waste time for the discussing of hopeless initiatives.

Besides, according to Lithuanian Foreign Minister, the OSCE should further be as the foundation of the civil society and the unique sphere of conflict regulation, proceeding with the accomplishment of programs on confidence promotion.

By the way, Lithuanian Minister in due time supported the idea of American delegation to the OSCE to grant the current Chairman of the organization extra authorities to be sent to the areas of potential conflicts, i.e. to grant the so-called immanent competence to the OSCE. The kind of approach worried Russia and confused other CIS members. However, as diplomats assure, the issue is not yet withdrawn from agenda despite it is not discussed now.

Although naturally there are common points of interests and views with the current Chairman. Lithuania as well as Kazakhstan realizes the need to strive for a more significant contribution of sub-regional organizations into common security within the OSCE region.

But, it means the EU and NATO, and not CSTO and SCO as Astana.

Azubalis Except for that, as the Head of Lithuanian Foreign Ministry A. Azubalis states, the OSCE potential is still unexhausted within Middle Asia region, and also within the issues of cooperation with Afghanistan: “We are sure that the Chairmanship of Kazakhstan in the Organization will open new opportunities in this region. Lithuania, as one of the three Presiding states, intends to develop more efficient, balanced and comprehensive program covering all the levels of the organization”.

Vilnius as well as Astana thinks that Lithuanian Chairmanship at OSCE in 2011 will promote the strengthening of international and regional role of the country, assist to get ready to the Chairmanship at the EU in 2013 and potential membership in the UNO Security Council in 2014-2015.

Note that Lithuania being a member of the three Chairmen, in practice joint the process of several problems solution. In particular, it is pretty active within the issues of assistance to Transnistria regulation. This was discussed during the recent meeting of the representatives of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Lithuania with the Administration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Transnistria.

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Lithuanian delegation included powerful personalities: political Director of the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, ambassador Eitvydas Bajarunas, coordinator of the preparation of Lithuanian Chairmanship at OSCE, ambassador Ritus Paulauskas, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Lithuania to Moldova Violeta Matulaite, First Secretary of Lithuanian Embassy to the Republic of Moldova Kiastuitis Vyskialiavychius.

Today for many experts Transnistria is a very complicated and indicative subject. Exactly this conflict is now observed as the most evident field of struggle between main regional and non-regional players. By this experts underline the raise of chances on its regulation as well as chances on the compromise between West and Russia on this subject.

Evaluating the potential of consensus achievement on different lines of this conflict analysts think that Kazakhstan and Lithuania, as current OSCE Chairmen-in-office, have chances on some positive changes. Although they are insignificant.

Potential of consensus within the regulation of Transnistria conflict during the period of the OSCE Chairmanship of Kazakhstan (2010) and Lithuania (2011).

However, many experts think that main disagreements are hidden in diverse attitude of Russia and West to system issues of general European security.

As for Russian initiative on the Treaty on European Security (TES), Lithuania as known has had quite an extreme view till recently.

Commenting on Russian suggestion on the treaty draft, the Head of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the security problems of XXIst century include not only military security, but also the problems in the sphere of human rights, economy, energy security and ecology. OSCE is the organization in security of different spheres, which includes 56 member-states and is an appropriate place for discussions on this subject. But only discussions, as there is no need to change anything in the current architecture of European security.

However, regarding the prospect line of Lithuania on this issue today there are different opinions. And probably Lithuanian line will be more flexible. First of all because the line of Washington changes. And not in conjuncture, as many suppose, but in strategy. Although maybe everything is not that unambiguously. Especially on the background of the last spy Russian-America scandal. However, the changes are also evident.

Arnaud Dubien As one of the analysts of French Institute of International and Strategic Affairs Arnaud Dubien noted during one of recent conferences: “Washington, Moscow, Warsaw and Kiev send signals: the “cold war” period is over, and a new historic context has begun”. And there are reasons to suppose that Russia will participate in the development of a new scheme of general European security. It’s impossible to forecast when will that happen, but “the administration of the President Barak Obama realizes, that the policy of antagonism in Europe towards Russia leads into a dead-end: any pan-European structure will fail if there will be no good relations between Poland and Germany from the one side, and between Poland and Russia from the other. But the processes we still observe in Europe, in general are still really far from ideal within abovementioned triangle”.

Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic have always been reliable allies of the USA. But now it will be hard for political elites of these states to understand that Washington is engaged with the enhancement of security on the continent, and it means it calls the Old World to interact actively with Russia within this sphere.

Dmitry Medvedev And still, regarding the initiative of Dmitry Medvedev in Lithuania as well as in West there are already established and pretty understandable ideas.

Summarizing them, the following can be noted.

The suggestions of Russia on the new architecture of security rest within a track of its intention “to turn the Russian Federation into a world power, the activity of which is directed on the maintenance of strategic stability and mutually beneficial relations in conditions of multi-polar world”.

Russia and West realize that this aim is not achievable without the assurance of the “sphere of privileged interests” (although more acceptable term would be the term “sphere of privileged partnership”) over the perimeter of its boarders, first of all within post-Soviet area.

Despite the hesitations regarding the right of Russia for the possession of the kind of “spheres”, western politicians and analysts realize that it is interested in the existence of the belt of friendly neighboring states with predictable and non-anti-Russian political regimes, accomplishing their own national interests and not serving for the demand of foreign players. They are ready to accept that but on the terms acceptable for everyone. I.e. on the ground of western idea of security and democracy.

There are also new moments within the discussion on Russian draft project.

Experts note that there is nothing conceptually new in the project, as the principle of integrity of security also repeats the Helsinki Document. Besides, security within OSCE area in a regional sense today is impossible without China and India. And the slogan from Vancouver to Vladivostok today looks simply like non-sense.

Technical issues are not clear as it is suggested to accede to the treaty and states and international organizations, i.e. the structures which initially from the legal point of view possess the secondary legal standing in comparison with states.

Also it is not clear which is a threat and which is not. By this as many experts write, the prospect of signing of the Treaty on European Security and the suggested by Russia negotiating format lead to diffusion of the basics of the OSCE activity.

It’s also noticeable that the process of post-Soviet area erosion goes on, and this means a steadily growing dependence of security from former Soviet republics from policy and the development of the situation within extended geography.

For Central Asia there is a growing significance of the kind of players as China and Afghanistan, for Caucasus and wider - Black Sea region - Turkey. Even Kazakhstan and Belarus as the states more integrated with Russia within military-political and economic sphere, have the reasons to concern about the line of Russia on monopolization of the area of security. And the real situation within the post-Soviet area is characterized by the reduction of significance and influence of Moscow, despite the wide implementation by the last one of the means of economic pressure.

The syndrome of “heavy great-powerhood” within Russian policy towards the states of near abroad is not extinct and can lead to the results quite opposite to the desired. Post-Soviet states are objectively interested in moderation of geopolitical competition in the region and in the reduction of confrontation on the line Russia-West as in terms of polarization as the possibility of accomplishment of the so-called multi-vector policy will inevitable shorten.

It’s not evident that Russian suggestions will result into the signing of the new Treaty of European Security. However, the launch of the discussion already proves that as minimum the procedural success of Russia.

It is positive that Russia tries to avoid its established reactive policy, when stating its disagreement with the steps of Western partners, it didn’t suggest its own solutions. However, the suggestions of this treaty are not revolutionary and are aimed more likely on the maintenance of status-quo, rather than on its demolition.