The Russian Foreign Minister will miss the meeting of the OSCE Foreign Ministers for the first time. The thing is that Poland, hosting the conference, refused to issue a visa to Sergei Lavrov. Earlier, in July, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was held without Russia for the first time. Izvestia recalls why the European security bloc was created and what role Russia plays in it.
Why was the OSCE created?
The International Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is considered one of the main organizations for the peaceful settlement of disputes in the territory. If a military conflict flares up in Europe or in the lands adjacent to it, the OSCE must make every effort to end it as soon as possible.
The organization was created in 1975 at the initiative of the USSR and the countries of the socialist camp to establish a dialogue between East and West during the Cold War. Russian is one of the official languages in the organization. The final Helsinki Accords, signed by 35 participants, consolidated the principle of the inviolability of European borders, a ban on the use of force and interference in the internal affairs of states.
Vehicles of the OSCE monitoring mission
Photo: TASS/Valentin Sprinchak
Today, the OSCE consists of 57 countries on three continents – in Europe, Asia and North America. Among them are all EU and CIS countries. The scope of the OSCE’s activities includes arms control, the fight against terrorism and human trafficking, human rights and freedom of the media, and the protection of the environment. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the participating countries, which Sergey Lavrov misses, is the governing body of the structure. Meanwhile, all decisions of the OSCE according to the charter must comply with the principle of equality between states, therefore they can be adopted only with the general consent and common presence of the participants.
Over the past two decades, the OSCE has often been criticized for its uselessness and lack of decisive action. “The OSCE crisis is a reflection of common systemic problems with ensuring security in Europe,” explained Alexander Lukashevich, Russian permanent representative to the organization.
Where the OSCE missions worked, what the Minsk Group did
OSCE missions are present in most trouble spots in Europe and monitor compliance with the peace agreements reached by the parties. The Minsk Group took part in the search for a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict and in establishing a dialogue between Kyiv and Donbass in 2014-2021. The OSCE representatives supported the position of Georgia in the conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the position of Moldova in the conflict with Transnistria.
Photo: TASS/Valentin Sprinchak
What is the role of Russia in the OSCE
Russia, within the framework of the OSCE and in cooperation with it, acts as a mediator in the settlement of regional conflicts (Transnistrian, Karabakh and Abkhaz). The Russian foreign policy concept envisaged strengthening the role of the OSCE’s authority. 57 Russians work in the structures of the organization, the annual contribution of Russia is about €7.7 million.
With all this, the misunderstanding between modern Russia and the OSCE escalated back in 2002. Moscow has repeatedly been indignant at the behavior of the OSCE, which calls Northern Irish or Catalan separatism an internal affair of Great Britain and Spain, but at the same time, for example, speaks sympathetically about Chechen separatists. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Moscow has regularly drawn attention to the double standards of the organization and proposed to reorganize it, “returning to the original principles.” Not once since 2002 have OSCE representatives succeeded in adopting a joint general political declaration.
At a meeting of the heads of the OSCE Foreign Ministries in 2006, Sergey Lavrov for the first time announced the possibility of the Russian Federation withdrawing from the structure.
In July 2022, against the backdrop of a special operation to protect Donbass, the United Kingdom refused visas for the Russian delegation to participate in the regular session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Then the first deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, Vladimir Dzhabarov, said that the decisions of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, adopted without Russia, cannot be considered legitimate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (center) during a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CMFA) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
Photo: RIA Novosti / Press Service of the Russian Foreign Ministry
In addition, Russian parliamentarians were also denied visas to participate in the autumn session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), which will be held in Warsaw on November 24-26.
But most importantly, Poland refused a visa to Sergei Lavrov, and Alexander Lukashevich will head the Russian delegation instead. The next meeting of the Council of Ministers will be held in Polish Lodz on December 1-2.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called Warsaw’s decision unprecedented and provocative, as well as destroying the OSCE. And the Kremlin specified that it would become a headache, first of all, for the OSCE itself.
In parallel, in 2022, France launched the so-called Moscow Mechanism against Russia three times. He was connected with the situation around Ukraine and human rights, as well as “in connection with the alarming situation with human rights” in the territory of the Russian Federation. The term “Moscow Mechanism” was introduced in 1991, a process used to investigate allegations of serious violations by states of their OSCE commitments.
What did the OSCE representatives in the Donbass do?
Since 2014, about a thousand OSCE observers have been working in Ukraine. The organization’s offices were opened in Kyiv, Donetsk and Lugansk. In April 2022, the OSCE terminated the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine because its mandate was not renewed. As experts explained to Izvestia, representatives of the republics actively demanded the organization’s departure from Donbass. Russia not only supported the LDRN, but also confirmed reports that local OSCE staff were engaged in espionage in favor of Kyiv. Later, two employees of the organization from the LPR were sentenced to long terms for treason.
In September, the CSTO called the annexation of the four republics to Russia “an illegal annexation that violates international law.”
Office of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), Lugansk
Photo: TASS/Alexander Reka
As Oleg Karpovich and Anton Grishanov, employees of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote in the Izvestia column, today’s OSCE is formally the only international structure in the Euro-Atlantic space that unites Russia and the so-called collective West. Theoretically, it is she who has the most significant potential to become a platform for dialogue between the two sides of the new Cold War and the search for some compromise ways out of the impasse. But our former Western partners are clearly not eager to seize the chance to at least try to activate this institution to end the Ukrainian crisis. On the contrary, everything is being done to completely emasculate this format, making interaction based on the organization meaningless.
Nevertheless, the presence of Russia in the OSCE can be continued in a wait-and-see modewith the hope that more pragmatic politicians will come to power in Western countries, who will need a proven platform for resuming contacts with Moscow.