The meeting of OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier with leading Russian experts at the Valdai Discussion Club began with words of condolences from Russian participants in connection with the death of one of the employees of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on April 23.
Zannier, for his part, noted that the OSCE is the only international organization that is present in Ukraine. In spite of the unconditional positive role played by the international presence in resolving the crisis, it would be necessary to think about the continuation of the work of the mission in this region in case of repeated deaths of the OSCE staff, the secretary general said.
During the discussion Zannier drew particular attention to the role of the OSCE, which is to monitor what is happening and to inform about it, but not to press the conflicting parties to implement the reached agreements. One can lead a horse to watering, but one cannot make it drink, Zannier said metaphorically.
In general, the focus of the discussion was on the situation in Ukraine. Zannier noted a high degree of mutual mistrust between the parties and more frequent cases of agreements’ violations. He expressed particular concern about the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine. In his opinion, it is important to show the parties how badly the conflict affects the lives of the civilian population. In addition, the OSCE Secretary General pointed to the multilevel conflict in Ukraine, when the division between people happens even inside families.
According to Zannier, there are signs of a real frozen conflict in Ukraine; one of them is the creation of state institutions in Eastern Ukraine. He expressed concern about the lack of progress on the reached agreements, which, as a rule, leads to even greater tightening of the positions of the parties.
Speaking about the differences in conflicts, Zannier said that, for example, the European perspective was present in the Balkans, which gave a positive dynamics in resolving the situation. In case of conflicts in the post-Soviet space, Russia and the Russian-speaking population are an important factor. In this regard, the concern of the OSCE Secretary General is caused by the overall atmosphere in international relations, in which the Organization has to act. As Zannier noted, it is extremely difficult to make progress in resolving conflicts in a polarized atmosphere, even though there are available ways out. The main problem, in his opinion, is the lack of dialogue. To rediscover the nature of dialogue is the key to solve many conflicts, he stressed.
According to Zannier, Russia feels the danger from NATO and the more it reacts, the more fears arise from, for example, the Baltic states. First of all, it is necessary to stop this vicious logic, to recognize the existence of different positions among the parties and to create space for dialogue, to begin to build the bridges that were destroyed. At the same time the OSCE Secretary General expressed his conviction, that the common vision of security is a global goal, which one should strive for, but the search for opportunities to build at least small bridges at this stage is more important.
As an example of areas of possible effective cooperation between countries, Zannier mentioned cyber security and the fight against drug trafficking. According to him, a working group on cybersecurity has already been established, which has prepared several proposals on the mechanism for informing other countries about the cyberattacks and the necessary answers against them.
During the discussion, Zannier noted two important components in security building - a multilateral format and the involvement of strong players. According to him, now there is a clear shortage in their provision. At the same time, he expressed hope that with the new administration the United States will show greater involvement in the work of the OSCE.