From Donbass to Central Asia: The Decline of the OSCE in Eurasia Becomes Closer

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


A few days ago, commenting on the sharply-increased intensity of shelling in Donbass, the representative of the OSCE Monitoring Mission Alexander Hug made a new statement. Having difficulty determining who opened fire first (and this is despite the technical means and the wide network of local informants available to the mission), he said that both sides don’t adhere to the arrangement on a truce. According to the official of the OSCE, return fire is also a violation of the Minsk Agreements, “and here there are no exceptions”.

With this, Mr Hug and the organization he represents once again encouraged the Ukrainian side to start a military escalation in Donbass. Probably, this is nothing surprising: the selectivity of the vision of OSCE observers, not interested in seeing Ukrainian shelling, more than once became the subject of indignation of the inhabitants of the DPR and LPR. Moreover, UAF tanks parked in the residential areas of Avdeevka feel very well under the cover of cars with OSCE identification marks…

The Ukrainian radicals who prepare for the second stage of the “blockade of Donbass”, by their own recognition, “accumulated forces, opened a number of camps along the Russian border”. However, we can be sure that these actions by the Ukrainian proteges will remain unaddressed from the gentlemen from the OSCE.

Alas, such behavior of the missions of the organization, urged to work towards a settlement of the conflict, became the norm. Earlier examples of the destructive activity of the OSCE in certain post-Soviet countries and conflict regions were given. And, obviously, the Swiss Thomas Greminger appointed on July 18th, 2017, as the Secretary General of the OSCE had good reason to say:

“… serious disagreements concerning the functions of the organization existed before, but the conflict in Ukraine considerably strengthened them, and today there is a deep crisis of confidence”.

Much earlier, the current chairman of this organization who frequented Donbass, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria Sebastian Kurz, according to whom “modern Europe is very diverse, contradictory like never before, and is being torn apart by bloc thinking”, spoke in the same vein.

The activity of the OSCE is also seen as proof of this disarray, which not only its mission in Donbass will be an example of. At the time, representatives of the OSCE made a significant contribution to regime changes in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, as well as in Macedonia, where they played a role in deepening the ethno-confessional split.

The main part of the financial resources of the OSCE is spent today on missions and also for field activity, which covers many countries of Eastern and Southeast Europe and Central Asia. According to the Charter of European security, the mandate of such missions can include: providing assistance or developing recommendations in those regions that the OSCE and the host agreed on; supervising the observance of obligations vis-a-vis the OSCE; providing assistance in the organization and supervision of elections; providing support to the rule of law and democratic institutions, and the restoration and maintenance of law and order; providing assistance for the creation of conditions for negotiations or other measures that could promote a peaceful settlement of conflicts; checking and/or helping the implementation of agreements for the peaceful settlement of conflicts; support in the restoration and reconstruction of various aspects of society¹. The action framework for conflict prevention is based on analysis for the early warning of an impending conflict and taking the appropriate measures at the initial stages².

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Certainly, the “reaction” can be very different, which is well seen in the example of not only Donbass, but also other post-Soviet regions. For example, by the end of the 1990’s, at the time of the Istanbul summit, the organisation and structure of the OSCE were opened in all five states of Central Asia. The OSCE center in Kazakhstan on December 18th, 2014, was transformed into a Program office³ of the OSCE in Astana. Since 1995 in Tashkent the OSCE Bureau on communications in Central Asia functioned, which transformed in 2000 into the OSCE Center in Tashkent, and in 2006, after the events in Andijan, into the Coordinator of the projects of OSCE in Uzbekistan.

There is an OSCE center in Ashgabat, and the Bureau in Tajikistan started working in this country in 1994, under the sparks of civil war. Unlike the mandates of the missions in Bishkek, Ashgabat, Astana, and Tashkent, in Dushanbe the OSCE Bureau, with quite a well-staffed mission (160 employees), carries out wider tasks. The long-term goals of the OSCE mission provide broader efforts aimed at reforming the political system of the country, developing legislative acts, training of staff, and so on⁴.

Similar events, including the training of prosecutors, lawyers, and judges in the correct understanding of the rights of citizens for religious beliefs are carried out also in Kyrgyzstan. In 2010, at the peak of the dramatic events in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan, the question about the arrival of a OSCE police mission in the region of the conflict was considered, the permanent council of which approved on June 15th, 2010, a statement on the situation in the Republic.

From June 24th to June 28th, 2010, the “mission of police forces” of the OSCE was in Bishkek for the development of a plan of action on rendering advisory and expert help in the post-conflict settlement and the restoration of the peace process in the south of the country. A plan of action for a “police consultative group of the OSCE” – the first peacekeeping structure of its kind in Central Asia – became the result of a number of meetings in Vienna and Bishkek. It was supposed that the group will carry out tasks of monitoring, curating, and consultation, but its arrival was postponed, and then the project had to be curtailed⁵.

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From relatively recent events it is possible to distinguish the two-week conference that took place in September, 2016, in Warsaw, organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), during which the situation with human rights in the countries of Central Asia was considered. Special discontent in Bishkek and Dushanbe was caused by the participation in this event of delegations of political parties and oppositional groups forbidden in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In particular, the Kyrgyz oppositionist, the former deputy of parliament Kadyrzhan Batyrov, one of leaders of the Uzbek community who was in absentia condemned in his Motherland to life imprisonment, accused the President Almazbek Atambayev of illegally changing the constitution and usurping power. In turn, the Kyrgyz authorities declared a demotion as of May 1st of the status of OSCE representation in the Republic, from a “center” to a “program office”. In addition, local offices of this structure in a number of cities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were closed.

The approach of the Kazakhstan side, which took the decision to reformat the OSCE mission, is interesting. Astana pays attention to the fact that the mandates of the OSCE field missions must be “intelligent”, i.e. concrete, measurable, achievable, actual, and correlated to concrete terms. Earlier, Kazakhstan, together with Russia and Belarus, proposed to conduct a number of reforms on strengthening the control of field missions, including the appointment of their employees by the permanent council of the OSCE and a reduction of the duration of the action of mandates.

Already in 2004 the CIS countries pointed out the serious defects of the work of the OSCE: a bias towards a humanitarian issues, reducing the activity of the organization in the humanitarian sphere to monitoring the situation in the field of human rights and democratic institutes, and also selective special attention to one country, ignoring the problems of others.

However, positive shifts in the activity of the OSCE didn’t happen, and the progressing crisis of this organization is apparent. Created in 1975 for the “prevention of the emergence of conflicts in the scale of the Old World, the settlement of crisis situations and the elimination of their consequences”, after the collapse of the USSR the OSCE more and more turned into an instrument for the realization of the geopolitical tasks of the US and their allies in NATO.

First of all this concerns attempts to influence internal political processes in those countries where there are OSCE representatives. Thus, questions of providing security, for which, in fact, the organization was created, fade into the background, and their “solution” turns into a caricature. It is exactly in this way that it happens in Donbass. In the middle of the 2000’s it was like this in South Ossetia, where “experts” in the field uniform of the OSCE openly worked for the interests of the Georgian side, which was preparing aggression.

The covert purpose of the OSCE missions in the post-Soviet space is the creation of conditions and prerequisites for the interference of the US and their allies in the internal affairs of the countries, planned for the next geopolitical experiment. Representations and observation missions of the OSCE became an instrument of interference in the internal affairs of those States that they act in, including supporting westernized political forces, organizing mass riots, and overthrowing objectionable regimes.

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As observers assume, events go in such a way that the authorities of many post-Soviet countries will seek to get rid of the importunate guardianship of “controllers” from the OSCE, operating in the interests of Washington and partly Berlin.

According to the prominent German politician, the former secretary of state of the Ministry of Defence of Germany and the former vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE Willie Vimmer, at the time “Americans did everything within their means to prevent the creation in the Asian part of the continent of an organization like the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, because this form of international cooperation contradicted American interests”.

In these conditions the common interest of Russia and its partners, who don’t need the emergence on their territory of centers of instability under the guardianship of OSCE “field missions”, consists of creating an early warning system of conflicts, independent of the West’s system, and of the corresponding model of peacemaking.



¹ Akkazieva G.I. The basic mechanisms of the OSCE’s activity in Central Asia // Bulletin of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic university. 2016. T. 16. No. 6. Page 107-111.

² Meyer P.F., Linott D. Mechanisms for the early warning of conflicts and their prevention (in the context of the economic and ecological spheres of the OSCE) // Central Asia and the Caucasus. 2006. No. 3 (45). Page 109-129.

³ According to the expert questioned by the Fergana publication, “the difference [between a Center and a Program office] is that the programme office does not monitor the situation in the country – political, economic, human rights or any other. The staff of the full-scale mission, meanwhile, prepares analytical materials for the delegations of all 57 OSCE member countries in Vienna, and the programme office does not write the analysis, while its projects are generally monitored / agreed with the Foreign Ministry”.

Dronov V.V. Activity of the OSCE mission in Tajikistan (1990-2005) // Bulletin of Moscow University. Series 8: History. 2010. No. 5. Page 89-95.

Malyshev D.V. Revolutionary events of 2010 in Kyrgyzstan: main prerequisites and the reaction of the world community // Bulletin of Moscow University. Series 25: International relations and world politics. 2011. No. 1. Page 130-148.

⁶ The financial contribution of Germany towards the activity of the OSCE is about 11%. German personnel is involved not only in the work of separate structures of the Organization, but also practically in all existing missions of the OSCE.

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