By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
At the beginning of this year Germany assumed the presidency of the OSCE for the year 2016. It offers a unique chance for Germany and Europe to find a diplomatic solution for the still unresolved Ukraine crisis and assist in the implementation of the Minsk II agreement. In an article Chancen der deutschen OSZE Präsidentschaft (Chances for the German Presidency of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe 14.03.16) former advisor to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Dr. Horst Teltschik reflected about the problems and chances concerning future East -West relations.
In reference to a speech which German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier had given in Berlin (12.01.16) about the prospects under the German OSCE chairmanship this year, Teltschik made some critical observation about the Foreign Minister’s speech. Rather than addressing the question of the OSCE successes and failures during the last 25 years, which includes a review of what has remained from the Peace and Security Order from Vancouver to Vladivostok, which 35 CSCE (Conference about Security and Cooperation in Europe) states and heads of government of the CSCE had reaffirmed solemnly with their signature under the Paris “Charter for a New Europe” (1990), the Foreign minister made some general remarks about the key role which the OSCE had as “Dialogue forum engaged in the search of conflict solution” putting the main emphasis on the need for cultural exchange and cooperation.
According to Teltschik it is important to ask ourselves some critical questions. At a moment when people in Russia and the West begin to hastily talk about a new Cold War, the question we must ask is whether “NATO and the EU (have) done really everything possible in the context of their expansion towards the East, to take into account the security concerns of Russia, as exaggerated as they may seem- and make concessions that are based on new offers for cooperation?”
With respect to Russia’s “encirclement fears” Teltschik underlines that no confidence building measures were taken in the military field, nor in the field of disarmament and arms control after the American -Russian Salt II agreement. What was pushed ahead instead was the American Missile Defense system, supposedly directed against the Iranian nuclear missile threat. The founding of the NATO- Russia council 2002 was an important step for a mutual understanding and security policy cooperation, agreed upon by Putin at the time. In 2007 Chancellor Merkel had demanded that relations between NATO and Russia should be further developed. However this proposal wasn’t picked up by anybody. Equally incomprehensible was from Teltschik’s point of view the NATO decision not to call for a NATO- Russia council meeting, neither during the Georgia war nor during the crisis in Ukraine.
On the background of the “Paris Charter” (a declaration signed at the time by 35 CSCE States that laid the basis for overcoming the division of Europe) it is anachronistic that since 25 years we speak about “frozen conflicts” in Europe. When protests erupted on the Maidan Square in Ukraine, followed by a Russian intervention in East Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea, this American foreign minister qualified this as a “wake up call”. The real question according to Teltschik is however: “who has slept in all those years?”
According to the “Paris Charter” from 1990 it was agreed upon that regular foreign Minister meetings – at least once a year were- were to be held. The public during the last 20 years, as Teltschik notes, was however unable to verify whether these meetings that were supposed “to strengthen the political and consultative process and enhance cooperation” had ever taken place, nor what had been decided. It was decided then, Teltschik reports, that every two years a follow up meeting of the participating states “was supposed to take place in order to make a review of the developments which had been made.” After a 11 years break, December 1rst-2nd 2010 the last summit of the 56 OSCE Member States took place in Astana (the OSCE in 1995 had become the successor organization of the CSCE). Teltschik recalled that Chancellor Merkel had demanded a review of things that had been accomplished while the U.S. Foreign Minister Hillary Clinton pushed for more human rights. The OSCE General- Secretary Marc Perrin de Brichambaut in his speech during the summit gave a precise outline of what should be done. He called upon the OSCE participants to “bring some fresh air into the arms control negotiations, improve early warning and engage in confidence building measures as well as develop strategies how to cope with cross border threats.” This also included the need for cooperation in the field of environment and economy. Teltschik commented that “nothing of what he had suggested has made any progress, also not before the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis.”
Test case Minsk II agreement
While according to Teltschik the media only mention the OSCE in the context of being “election observers”, “surveying” the human rights situation especially in Russia, White Russia or Central Asia, Moscow from its side accuses the OSCE more or less to be an instrument of the West whose aim is to interfere into the internal affairs. If we wanted to define a fracture line within the OSCE, Teltschik comments, it would go along the line of “soft themes” presented by the West, i.e. protection of human and civil rights, culture and along the line of “hard themes” presented by Russia which means policy and security.
Teltschik underlines that the Ukraine crisis should be seen as a “wake up” call and that efforts be made to bring about a peaceful settlement of the crisis by fully realizing the Minsk II agreement. The Minsk II agreement was concluded on 12th of February 2015 by Russian President Putin, German Chancellor Merkel, French President Hollande and Ukraine President Poroschenko. The 13 points program which was agreed upon then included an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, elections in Donbass, which should be preceded by constitutional amendments made in the Kiev parliament, and whose implementation should be monitored by the OSCE, has so far not been fully implemented. This is quite dangerous since it could lead to the outbreak of new military conflicts in Eastern Ukraine. According to Teltschik what needs to be done is that “both sides take their respective security interests seriously, in Europe as well as on a global scale. And that both sides start again to rebuild the confidence that was lost, by defining their security interests and by coming into agreement about this, as well as by developing together new room for manoeuver.”
The Minsk II agreement therefore remains for all participants an “important test case.” It is a test of “reliability” and a success or failure of Minsk II will have consequences for the political and strategic climate in Europe, Teltschik states. The nuclear agreement with Iran and negotiations during the Syria crisis are for him “a sign of hope”, namely that it is possible to make an assessment of the risks and security interests, that are situated outside of Europe. “The precondition is however is that all members of the OSCE meet on an ‘equal level’, look for common problem solutions and don’t limit themselves to denounce some failures of nations and this way construct new ideological barriers.”
The challenges for the German OSCE presidency according to Teltschik are that in the future such a presidency will not be measured along the line whether there was more cultural exchange between the member states, but the essential question will be “whether actual or looming crisis have been contained peacefully or brought to an end.”