Norms and Values
OSCE on Artificial Life Support or a Return to the CSCE?
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On December 1, 2023, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion dedicated to the results of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Skopje. Moderator Oleg Barabanov invited participants to discuss the present and future of the OSCE in the context of the prospects for European security as a whole.

Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Faculty of World Economy and International Politics at the Higher School of Economics, suggested that the OSCE would exist “on artificial life support” for some time, but in its current form it is doomed. The only chance for its salvation in the medium-term is a return to the format of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the liquidation of those institutions that were created after the Cold War and are under the full control of the West. “It is necessary to leave behind only the Council of Foreign Ministers, as it was in the 1970s and 1980s,” Suslov is convinced. The new CSCE should become a platform for dialogue between Russia and the collective West and for developing a new modus vivendi in the conditions of inevitable long-term confrontation, an arms race and the threat of a big war, he believes. However, this requires political will, which is completely absent so far.

Fyodor Lukyanov, research director of the Valdai Discussion Club, called a return to the CSCE unlikely, since political conditions have radically changed. The CSCE was created in conditions of lasting peace to fix the existing balance of power and interests. Now there is no balance, there is no status quo, and probably no one can establish them. An important question, according to Lukyanov, is what European security is today, when European countries have ceased to be actors in this area. Many people talk about the need to transform the pan-European security system into a pan-Eurasian one, but this is hardly possible. In addition, the “centrality” of events taking place in Europe or Eurasia as a whole is inessential. Lukyanov believes that the OSCE is unlikely to disappear, but it is difficult to say what the meaning of its existence will be.

Rein Müllerson, Professor Emeritus of Tallinn University, admitted that he has “mourning premonitions” regarding the OSCE. However, international organisations often continue to exist even when they have exhausted their functions. Back in the nineties, the OSCE was a “one-way street” and influenced only Eastern Europe and Russia, and Western countries did not pay attention to it. Now, even the opportunity to establish contacts and exchange information is not used. The organisation has turned into a platform for communication between like-minded people, but without any practical benefit. However, it will most likely exist for a long time, even if its efficiency is not even zero, but negative, the expert concluded.