- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I read with great interest the column “A strategy for Central Asia” (Opinion, Thursday ) by Borut Grgic and Alexandros Petersen. The column rightly highlights the importance of effective regional cooperation in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which maintains an extensive field presence in Central Asia, has taken up this challenge. The OSCE works with host governments and civil society representatives to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law; combat organized crime and trafficking; promote cross-border trade (including with Afghanistan); rectify environmental damage; and promote political pluralism, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In November 2007, OSCE foreign ministers decided to engage Afghanistan more deeply in this regional approach. Since then, activities have been launched in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan to train Afghan personnel, while further projects aimed specifically at strengthening Afghanistan's border-management capacities are under development. At the same time, ministers decided that Kazakhstan would exercise the organization's rotating chairmanship in 2010 - a step that, as Mr. Grgic and Mr. Petersen pointed out, is likely to lend additional momentum to the organization's work in the region.

Nonetheless, I would be remiss if I did not point out a number of inaccuracies contained in this column.

First, the name of our organization - the Organization for Security (not “Stability”) and Co-operation in Europe - reflects OSCE's comprehensive security concept, which encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human-security aspects.

Second, Mr. Grgic and Mr. Petersen have characterized ongoing discussions on the future of European security as a Russian attempt to “replace” OSCE in the wake of the August 2008 war in the Caucasus. In fact, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed the negotiation of a new European security treaty in June of last year, before the Russo-Georgian conflict. Since that time, discussion has focused mainly on how to use OSCE and other mechanisms more effectively to address concrete security challenges. All OSCE-participating states have acknowledged the “often squabbling OSCE” (in the words of Mr. Grgic and Mr. Petersen) as a primary forum for this debate.

I also am perplexed by Mr. Grgic and Mr. Petersen's assertion that OSCE is suffering from a “post-Cold War 'What-do-we-do-next?' syndrome.” The Cold War ended a long time ago, and the OSCE has spent much of the past two decades preventing and resolving regional conflicts. Some of these efforts have succeeded, but many challenges remain.

OSCE's current agenda includes many of the Euro-Atlantic region's highest priorities: resolving long-standing conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova, building capacities in Central Asia and Afghanistan, promoting respect for democratic values, and addressing the nexus between economic developments and security, to name just a few. The organization may have its problems, but a lack of things to do is not among them.


Secretary general

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

Vienna, Austria

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