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The United States and the osce after the Ukraine Crisis

In: Security and Human Rights
Author:
P. Terrence Hopmann Conflict Management Program, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, pthopmann@jhu.edu

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Ever since negotiations on the Helsinki Final Act opened in Helsinki in 1973, the United States has regarded the Conference (later Organization) on Security and Co-operation in Europe with some ambivalence. The role of the Helsinki Final Act in establishing a normative regime that contributed significantly to undermining the authoritarian regimes in the former Warsaw Pact countries, eventually bringing an end to the Cold War, is widely recognized and appreciated in the United States. However, the expanded post-Cold War role of the osce has received less attention in us foreign policy and, with respect to issues of European security, has clearly been assigned a secondary role in that policy behind the nato Alliance. Those knowledgeable about the osce in the United States widely regard its role in positive terms on issues such as human rights, rights of persons belonging to minorities, rule of law, election monitoring and other “soft” security issues. However, the osce role in “hard” security issues has been given little attention and receives only limited support, due largely to its inability to achieve consensus on most serious security problems and its lack of resources to effectively implement those decisions that it takes. Nevertheless, the recent crisis in Ukraine has awakened us interest in the osce as the institutional framework best able to manage that crisis. The challenge for the German Chairmanship in 2016 will be to build upon this renewed us attention to the osce’s role in “hard” security issues, in promoting negotiated resolutions to this and other stalemated conflicts, in rebuilding the badly damaged regime of confidence-building measures and conventional arms control, as well as responding, within the multilateral osce framework, to new security threats, such as cyber warfare and countering violent extremism.

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