From Vancouver to Vladivostok

Not unlike the cold old days, the US and Russia have been at odds over the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the recent ministerial meeting in Brussels (Belgium currently has the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship), the Russian ambassador complained about an imbalance in the Organisation’s work, specifically that too much emphasis was being put on the “human dimension.” That’s an OSCE bit of jargon that covers things like free and fair elections, protection of human rights and so forth. (This was all reported in the German newspaper whose web site could be better organized, page 6 of the December 5 edition, but can one find the article on said web site? No. Try here, instead, as long as the link lasts.)

Ambassador Lavrov said that the OSCE should give equal focus to the military and economic aspects of security and cooperation in Europe. This is kind of a nutty thing for a Russian ambassador to be saying.

Russia has been dragging its feet on military commitments to the OSCE since the Istanbul summit in 1999. There are OSCE controversies about Russian military units and actions in Georgia and Moldova, both OSCE members. There is doubt about Russian good faith concerning the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. There are also lingering doubts about adjustments made to the CFE treaty. It seems to me the last thing Russia would want is greater OSCE scrutiny of military matters.

And on the economic side, Russia has dropped import bans on wines and other alcoholic beverages from Georgia and Moldova, ostensibly for health and safety reasons. These may yet get Moscow in trouble at the WTO (welcome to the club, now here are your first sanctions), and would also not stand up to much OSCE oversight.

Maybe Lavrov means that OSCE involvement in the human dimension has been pretty successful to date, and the other two baskets need to catch up. In which case, I’d second the motion and call on his government to be the first to offer triple funding to the OSCE, no strings attached. This could be fun.

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