Russia’s Rollercoaster: The Road To 30th OSCE Conference – OpEd

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For two days, November 30 and December 1, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Council gathered in capital city of Skopje, North Macedonia, for its 30th regular sessions primarily to discuss the implementation of decisions and to coordinate mid-term goals. North Macedonia holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship for 2023.

After adequate preparations, Russian delegation had to struggle with its aviation route to Skopje as the Baltic republics had closed their air space due to the geopolitical tensions. That however, Russia’s participation encountered psychological and ideological hurdles. Russia blamed this on the destructive mentality and ideology of the United States and the collective West. 

“There is no denying the fact that the collective West is demonstrating divisive trends. We can see that several countries have taken a stand because the OSCE is on the verge of an ideological and political collapse, according to reports from the Russian Foreign Ministry. 

Russia has to state with regret that the OSCE is in deplorable shape and its prospects as an organization are unclear, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers. “In a little more than 12 months’ time the Helsinki Final Act will turn 50. We have to note with regret that the OSCE is approaching this anniversary in a deplorable shape and its prospects remain unclear,” Lavrov said.

“Unfortunately, the Western political elites, which have arrogated to themselves the right to decide the fate of humanity, have made a short-sighted choice not in favor of the OSCE, but in favor of NATO. In favor of the philosophy of containment, zero-sum geopolitical games and the ‘master – slave’ logic. One of the key components of this policy was NATO’s reckless expansion to the East, which began after the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization,” the Russian foreign minister explained.

Media reports said that Lavrov faced Western critics at security meeting and walks out after speech which lasted for 15 minutes. The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had said they would not attend the talks due to Lavrov’s participation.

The process of boycotting the OSCE meeting due to the participation of the Russian Foreign Minister was launched by Dmytro Kuleba’s demarche. It was publicly supported by the Baltic states and Poland, which together participated in the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

“According to European Pravda, 13 out of 31 NATO member states refused to travel to Skopje and did not board the charter that transported ministers from one meeting to another,” the article says.

But even those ministers who did arrive in Skopje, after a joint dinner, which Lavrov did not attend, decided not to be present at the meeting itself and left their deputies, assistants or even ambassadors to speak instead.

These included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU diplomat Josep Borrell, who entrusted the speech to Lithuanian diplomat Ambassador Rasa Ostrauskaite. The foreign ministers of the UK, Canada, Italy, Poland, Belgium, and others did not attend the event.

In addition, during Lavrov’s speech at the meeting, Ukraine and representatives of several other countries demonstratively left the room. The Russian foreign minister reacted with a nervous phrase, “Leave me alone!”

At the same time, Hungarian Minister Péter Szijjártó, who called for an end to arms supplies to Ukraine, and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, who met with Lavrov “at the request of the OSCE” and called for “no fear of dialogue,” expectedly met separately.

The diplomats of several OSCE member nations, including Ukraine, boycotted the event due to Lavrov’s planned attendance amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. Lavrov discredited the work of this OSCE institution and further blamed what he described as Western tolerance of the “ruling neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv” for the war that started with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Lavrov made it clear, at a lengthy press conference during the OSCE meeting on 1 December, that Russia “sees no reason” to reconsider the goals of the war against Ukraine. That control over this operation is carried out permanently by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, and concluded “We see no reason why our goals should be reconsidered.” Long ago, Kremlin has justified the full-scale invasion of Ukrainian territory in February 2022, and in concrete terms, claimed the task of “denazification and demilitarisation” of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Eurasian integration and equal cooperation based on a fair balance of interests are proceeding on the continent in constructive formats, regardless of the OSCE drowning under the confrontational agenda that was imposed on it, according to Lavrov.

Despite the stern criticisms, Lavrov admitted, at least, some positive side of OSCE. He explained that after the Cold War and the ideological confrontation ended, there emerged a historic opportunity for the OSCE’s unifying capacity to be utilised to its full potential in order to turn the organization into a platform for broad-based pan-European cooperation and to make it a central element in shaping inclusive architecture of equal and indivisible security in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic region across all three dimensions.

Before the 30th regular sessions, the civil society conference brought together more than 120 civil society representatives from across the OSCE region to discuss common recommendations from civil society to the OSCE leadership. One of the major outcomes of this year’s conference was the Skopje Declaration. 

The Declaration emphasized the need to end the war against Ukraine, strengthen civil society and hold participating States accountable for their human dimension commitments. The Declaration was presented to the OSCE’s leadership, as well as to the organization’s 57 participating States on the eve of the 30th OSCE Ministerial Council.

The OSCE’s activities cover all three of these areas, from hard security issues such as conflict prevention to fostering economic development, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, and promoting the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Based in Vienna, Austria, the OSCE is an intergovernmental organization focused on promoting security, stability, and cooperation among its participating states.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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