What is OSCE Certification

| Powerless OSCE

Terrain for a different foreign policy

The current crisis situation in Ukraine and the hardened fronts between Russia and the West have brought the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) back into the focus of international politics. 40 years after the Helsinki Final Act was signed, it is still the only inclusive forum for security and disarmament negotiations between East and West, apart from the frequently blocked NATO-Russia Council. After the end of the Cold War, the OSCE made an important contribution to European security, in particular by promoting conventional arms control. But the organization has been increasingly pushed into the background by NATO and the EU in recent decades. The key treaty for arms control in Europe, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty),1 is now out of force. The Ukraine crisis has made it clear that the elimination of this treaty is a problem that should not be underestimated with regard to the transparency of military activities and the predictability of armed forces development in the conflict region. The remaining mechanisms of security and confidence-building as well as military transparency in Europe, the Vienna Document (WD) and the Treaty on Open Skies (OH-Treaty), require fundamental modernization.

End of the CFE contract - what follows from it?

Diplomatic relations between Russia and the West have hit rock bottom since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. Although there is much talk today that the strategic partnership was shaken solely by the behavior of Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, this is a one-sided view. This crisis did not come by chance, but is the result of a gradually deteriorating relationship between East and West, which can be very well traced on the basis of the development of security and arms control agreements. While there was a functioning security dialogue and strategic restraint on both sides within the framework of the OSCE and the CFE Treaty in the 1990s, the consensus on arms control issues became increasingly fragile over time. In addition, the danger of large-scale wars and direct interstate aggression was no longer seen as real in Europe. This was followed by a series of unilateral steps by NATO, the USA and the EU, which Russia perceived as a restriction of its own security: NATO eastward expansion to the borders of Russia, stationing of US combat troops in Romania and Bulgaria, missile defense shield in Europe and repeated NATO membership offers to Ukraine and Georgia and recently the conclusion of EU association agreements with these two countries. Protests on the part of the Russian government went unheard and show the fundamental misjudgment of Russian security interests.

A common European security architecture was high on Russia's agenda for a long time. Proposals in this direction were particularly rejected by the new NATO states and ultimately also regarded as secondary by the USA and the Western European states. Negotiations on security and defense policy issues increasingly shifted from the OSCE to the NATO-Russia Council after 2002. For a long time, however, Russia waited in vain for the Council to be upgraded to a quorum. After NATO suspended the work of the Council in August 2008 as a result of the Georgia crisis and threatened to do so in the current Ukraine crisis, Russia no longer expects this form of cooperation. For 15 years the fronts have hardened between the participating states of the CFE regime. The relevance of the treaty, which was once considered the cornerstone of the European security architecture, as well as the political importance of the topic of conventional arms control have rapidly declined. Against the background of the Ukraine conflict, the remaining mechanisms of European arms control, despite their previous failure, should now receive more attention.

Remaining Mechanisms - Vienna Document and Open Skies Treaty

The 1990 Vienna Document, which applies to all 57 OSCE member states, first came back into the consciousness of the actors involved during the Ukraine conflict. In this context, the OSCE member states undertake to exchange detailed information about their armed forces and main weapon systems, their military budget, their defense and armed forces planning and upcoming maneuvers once a year. If unusual military activities on the territory of a Member State raise concern, statements can be requested and consultations of the Forum for Security Co-operation and the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna can be convened. This has happened several times since February 28, 2014 at the request of Ukraine, the USA, Canada and Russia (see Richter 2014).

In the Baku Declaration of the Annual Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in 2014, the importance of the Vienna Document (VD) is no longer simply cited in empty clichés, but underlined repeatedly. Furthermore, it is reminded of the need to take into account the more than 20 WD-Plus proposals (ongoing resolutions of the Forum for Security Co-operation to update and further develop the WD) when updating it. Russia continues to exchange information within the framework of the Vienna Document and allows inspections or conducts them itself. The same applies to the performance of control flights within the framework of the open skies contract. The 2002 contract complements and expands the on-site inspections of the Vienna Document and the CFE Treaty by providing for observation flights with certified aircraft and observation sensors in the 34 member states.

But both regimes need to be renewed and adapted. About the Vienna Document2 Experts suggest a number of measures to make it more crisis-proof. On the one hand, the thresholds for the observation of unusual military activities should be lowered and the quotas for area inspections (depending on the size of the country to be inspected and the extent of its armed forces) and the number of inspectors (previously only three to four inspectors) should be increased, as well as the inspection times ( previously 12 to 48 hours). On the other hand, the information obligations and verification rights should also include rapid reaction groups, special forces, command and logistics troops as well as internal security troops, militias and paramilitary groups. Especially during the Ukraine crisis, uncertainties about the number and intentions of various special and militia groups (government opponents in eastern Ukraine and Russian military aid) as well as paramilitary units and the national guard (assigned to the Ukrainian government) exacerbated the conflict (cf. ibid.).

Armament instead of disarmament

At the moment, however, any form of disarmament effort is being undone by the fact that there is rearmament on all sides. Russia has been carrying out extensive military reforms since 2008 with the aim of modernizing a large part of the weapon systems by 2020 and investing around 60 percent of military spending in procurement measures. Against the background of the tense security situation, the most recent NATO summit in Wales once again urged all member states to increase their armament budgets to at least two percent of gross domestic product and to allocate at least 20 percent of the defense budget for the renewal of weapon systems.

Escalation instead of de-escalation

The illegal annexation of Crimea, as well as Russia's support for military activities of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, contributed to the escalation of the situation. NATO, in turn, responded with so-called reinsurance measures. She repeatedly emphasizes the defensive character of these measures, but the numerous military exercises and maneuvers in the eastern flank region are by no means de-escalating. These include air patrols (air policing) in the Baltic States,3 AWACS surveillance flights in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the deployment of naval units in the Baltic Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, which have since been intensified.

In addition, it was decided in Wales to increase the reactivity of NATO's rapid reaction forces. The so-called Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) with ground, air and naval units as well as special forces is specially set up to be operational on the periphery of the alliance within a few days. This goal is also served by the staffing of the headquarters of the Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, as well as increasing its operational readiness. Russia, on the other hand, is provoking with maneuvers of its fighter jets in international airspace over Europe, which has repeatedly put NATO on alert. So far, the Federal Government has assumed that the permanent stationing of substantial combat troops in the Eastern Alliance area can be dispensed with in accordance with the self-restraints of the NATO-Russia Founding Act.4 But the rapid relocation of large military units, which is now possible through appropriate exercises and emergency plans if necessary, serves the same strategic direction.

Helsinki + 40 process - a fresh start?

With a view to the so-called Helsinki + 40 Process (2015), work is underway within the OSCE on a realignment of the organization. 2015 is seen as an opportunity to define the future course. As a result of the Ukraine crisis, military transparency and a revival and modernization of conventional arms control are the top priorities. It is being considered that institutions within the OSCE in particular, such as the Forum for Security Co-operation, as well as local arms control mechanisms could contribute to improved crisis management. The inclusiveness of the OSCE, the consensus-based decision-making mechanisms and the continuing commitment to the concept of "comprehensive, cooperative, equal and indivisible security" are still considered to be its main strengths. However, it is unlikely that the OSCE will now be able to fulfill the hopes placed in it again, after the many attempts that have failed in the past. Although the relevant contracting states reaffirm at regular intervals that they are committed to a fresh start in pan-European arms control, lip service has remained so far.

Redefine arms control

The concept of arms control needs to be defined and understood more broadly today. It is no longer just a matter of establishing strategic balances and thus preventing interstate conflicts. The example of Ukraine shows that additional mechanisms are necessary to prevent internal conflicts and crises. New security policy framework conditions require the addition and adaptation of the weapon categories limited by the CFE Treaty. Combat drones and advanced conventional weapons (HFCs) should be mentioned as new relevant weapon categories. This includes new operational capacities in the sense of information-centric warfare, such as cruise missiles, long-range precision weapons, systems for advanced air defense, but also guided mortar and artillery shells or guided missiles for anti-tank and air defense, which can be deployed autonomously by small groups. In Russia it is feared that long-range precision weapons in combination with missile defense could ultimately also call nuclear deterrence into question (cf. CSS Analyzes on Security Policy 146 [2013]).

In addition, armed forces are no longer only characterized by the quantity of their troops and weapon systems, but also by qualitative aspects, such as certain military capabilities. It is also relevant to what extent armed forces are able to quickly relocate and station troops and to concentrate conventional clout. These capabilities, as provided by NATO for the defense of Eastern allies, as well as strategic air transport, represent capabilities that would also have to be included in verification processes (cf. Schmidt 2014). In order to record the qualitative aspects, observations of military training and exercises would also have to be carried out. In view of the reduced number of posts in the Bundeswehr's verification center5 it is questionable whether the Federal Republic could do justice to these tasks or whether verification and confidence-building measures are not rather subordinate goals of government policy.

In addition to a wider range of armaments and weapons categories to be controlled, other actors would also have to be addressed. Experience has shown that arms control is no longer negotiated by governments alone, but that civil society actors (NGOs, think tanks, science) must also be involved. It is currently unclear what role the OSCE will play in future in arms control issues and ultimately depends on the political will of the member states. From a peace policy perspective, it would be desirable to make greater use of and strengthen the OSCE as a non-military negotiating forum and alternative to NATO. From a real-political point of view, this is rather unlikely. The OSCE is (once again) in a process of reorientation and needs a new course to be set. It has strayed far from the vision of a security community “from Vancouver to Vladivostok”. The dissent on arms control issues played a decisive role in this.



Literature CSS Analyzes for Security Policy 146, 2013: Conventional arms control in Europe, www.css.ethz.ch/publications/pdfs/CSS-Analysen-146-DE.pdf
Richter, Wolfgang, 2014: Arms control and military transparency in the Ukraine conflict, SWP-Aktuell 59 / September 2014, Berlin
Schmidt, Hans-Joachim, 2014: Verifiable transparency, in: Security Community (OSCE Magazine) 1/2014, 10–11
Wiegold, Thomas, 2014: German fighter jets in the Baltic States: armed at the Russian border. augengeradeaus.net/2014/09/deutsche-kampfjets-im-baltikumbewarmnet-an-der-russischen- Grenz


1 The original CFE Treaty was signed and ratified in 1990 by the two blocs of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty. In the course of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the expansion of NATO, an Adaptation Agreement (A-KSE) was signed in 1999, which repealed the bloc approach for the first time. It is still not in force today, as the NATO member states still make ratification dependent on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the so-called flank regions of Moldova and Georgia. Russia did not recognize these conditions as part of the treaty and responded to the lack of ratification by NATO with a suspension of the CFE treaty of 2007. After the talks in the format of "36" (30 CFE contracting states plus six NATO- Accession states) were canceled and at the end of 2011 the vast majority of NATO countries had suspended their treaty obligations towards Russia, even a review conference did not lead to any result. Until further notice, however, the annual exchange of information between the contracting states will continue.
2 Only a few formal changes were made to the Vienna Document, which were adopted by the OSCE Council of Ministers in Vilnius in December 2011 under the title "WD 11".
3 Germany has been involved with up to six Eurofighters since September 2014, some of which are armed patrolling the Baltic States (cf. Wiegold 2014).
4 Response of the Federal Government to a small question from the Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parliamentary group of July 21, 2014, BTDrs.-Nr. 18/2198.
5 Response of the Federal Government to a small question from the Die Linke parliamentary group, November 30, 2011, BT-Drs.-Nr. 17/8034.