Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech to the Atlantic Council to mark the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The speech focused on the administration’s new agenda for freedom and democracy promotion, seeking a renewed US-European partnership to combat global terrorism, human rights violations, climate change and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
We owe it to ourselves and to those who yearn for the same freedoms that are enjoyed and even taken for granted in Berlin today. And we need to form an even stronger partnership to bring down the walls of the 21st century, and to confront those who hide behind them: the suicide bombers; those who murder and maim girls whose only wish is to go to school; leaders who choose their own fortunes over the fortunes of their people.
In place of these new walls, we must renew the Transatlantic Alliance as a cornerstone of a global architecture of cooperation. When we come together to uphold the common good, there is no constellation of countries on earth that has greater strength. There is no wall we cannot topple. There is no truth we can be afraid of.
She acknowledged the central role of NATO in defending western Europe throughout the Cold War and then called for tackling an agenda beyond western Europe and the US:
European countries have been leaders in addressing the economic and social development challenges of the world. We need to continue our work on an economic recovery. And we need to continue to promote democracy and human rights beyond freedom’s current frontiers, so that citizens everywhere are afforded the opportunity to pursue their dreams and live up to their own God-given potential.
However, no mention was made of what is probably the best tool Europe and the US have available to carry out these plans: the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE was designed during the Cold War to do what NATO could not – and still cannot: to serve as forum for what was then “East and West” on issues of conflict (early warning and rehabilitation), economics, the environment, elections, minority rights, media freedom, human trafficking, border management and policing (among others). Its 56 participating States are from Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America – covering most of the northern hemisphere. The Arab states of North Africa and some Asian countries are OSCE “Partners for Co-Operation.” It is 67 countries overall. In other words, the OSCE has a reach beyond NATO or the EU and the ability to engage key actors like Russia in working level dialogues and projects that determine whether or not there will be progress in these substantive areas across an enormous swath of territory. The US Mission to the OSCE describes it focus and territorial reach as follows:
The OSCE is a major forum for issues of peace, security and human rights in Europe and Central Asia. A legacy of the historic 1975 Helsinki accords, it is the only fully inclusive trans-Atlantic/European/Eurasian political organization. Every state from Andorra to Kyrgyzstan is represented among its 56 participating States. Over more than thirty years, commitments to democracy, rule of law, human rights, tolerance, pluralism and media freedoms were hammered out at the OSCE and its predecessor mechanisms — and agreed to by all the participating States. The OSCE is unique among international organizations in the acceptance by the participating States of the principle that open societies built on human rights and democracy are a necessary component of true security.
NATO recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and its accomplishments as a military alliance are truly historic and it certainly has a role to play in current and future security issues facing the US and Europe, be they in Afghanistan or closer to home. However, NATO is poorly-equipped and lacks the legitimacy to address questions of governance and human rights and its history makes any moves with or toward Russia very tricky. The OSCE, although it has sometimes been criticized as being a tool of the West, goes about its business through quiet, consistent consultation and consensus. It cannot overcome all of the political, economic and military tensions across the region but it can play a role that other multilateral organizations cannot. In addition, the OSCE is paying a role outside the borders of its member states, especially in Afghanistan and with the Palestinian Authority, where it worked in support of elections. Accordingly, the OSCE should be supported as an important part of the US foreign policy toolbox – and there are signs that the State Department is doing just that. Late last month Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, spoke to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europeand said:
We look forward to Secretary Clinton’s participation in the Athens Ministerial in December, which would be the first time since 2004 that the Secretary of State has participated in such a meeting. In Athens, we will highlight the accomplishments of the OSCE, and work to rejuvenate the OSCE itself through revitalizing its contributions in each of its three dimensions of security – the human dimension; political-military aspects of security; and economic and environmental issues. The “Corfu Process,” inaugurated by the Greek OSCE chairmanship to take a fresh look at the OSCE itself and European security more generally, is at the center of that revitalization effort.