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OSCE, Forum on Security



The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is currently the best living model we have for a regional security organization. Like the United Nations. Like the United Nations, the OSCE is multilateral organization with a mandate to provide peace and security through its region of responsibility; and like the UN, the OSCE is, in principle, open to membership for all countries in the region concerned, without regard to their economic system, fom of government, or security alliances. The OSCE is, thus, a nonpartisan regional security organization, dedicated to preserving peace among its members.

The Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC)is an arm of the OSCE, a committee of the whole tasked with reaching consensus on arms limitation, arms reduction, and other confidence-building measures. The FSC has been defining confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) adopted by consensus among its members since 1992. The OSCE Istanbul summit in 1999 adopted a Charter for European Security and a “Vienna Document 1999.” The latter integrated new CSBMs with those established in the Vienna Document 1994 (see below). The Charter for European Security affirmed the important role of arms control and CSBMs in European security.


Helsinki Agreement (1975). In 1975, the states of Europe (except Albania) along with Canada and the United States signed the Helsinki Final Act. Among the security provisions (“Basket I”) was the “Document on Confidence-Building Measures and Certain Aspects of Security and Disarmament,” which required notification of military maneuvers exceeding 25,000 troops (see 1986 status).

Stockholm Conference (1986). Efforts to strengthen the Helsinki CSBMs made no headway at the Belgrade CSCE Follow-Up Meeting in 1978. In 1983, after three years of talks, the Madrid CSCE Follow-Up Meeting initiated negotiations on CSBMs, which took place in Stockholm from 17 January 1984 to 22 September 1986. The mandate from Madrid envisaged the Stockholm negotiations as a first stage of security talks and anticipated that a second stage of discussions would move from CSBMs to actual disarmament.

In Stockholm, the 35 CSCE states, meeting as the Conference on Confidence and Security building Measures and Disarmament in Europe (the CDE), adopted the Stockholm Document. It contained certain CSBMs that improved upon those in the Helsinki Final Act. For example, the threshold for notification of exercises was lowered to 13,000 troops and inspections to verify compliance were included. (See ACR 402dEUR86 for Stockholm Document.)

Follow-Up Conference in Vienna (1990). On 4 November 1986, the third CSCE review conference began in Vienna. In addition to discussing human rights and economic cooperation, the CSCE worked through a second stage of security negotiations. The desire of neutral states, the Soviet bloc, and some NATO members to begin disarmament discussions among the 35 states in the CDE had met strong opposition from the United States, which wanted to limit CDE talks to CSBMs and hold discussions on conventional disarmament exclusively among the 23 members of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO).

As a compromise, two sets of talks were initiated by the 15 January 1989 Concluding Document of the Vienna CSCE Review: CSBM talks and talks on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) (covered in section 407), which involved the “23” but remained “within the framework of the CSCE process.” On 19 November 1990 the CFE and the CSBM talks concluded with agreements. The Vienna Document 1990 contained 16 new CSBMs {ACR box 21.11} and subsumed the measures from the 1986 Stockholm Document.

Vienna Document 1992. CSBM negotiators resumed discussions in Vienna on 26 November 1990, working toward a more comprehensive document that was completed on 4 March 1992. The Vienna Document 1992, which encompassed the measures of the previous documents, entered into force on 1 May 1992. It expanded the CSCE’s membership to include the republics of the former Soviet Union and required more detailed information exchanges, advance notice of military exercises with 9,000 or more troops, and limits on the number of exercises with more than 13,000 troops {4.3}.

Helsinki Document 1992. The Helsinki Document 1992, adopted at the 1992 Helsinki CSCE meeting, provided the mandate for the Forum for Security Cooperation, consisting of the then 52 CSCE members. FSC talks focus on improving and adjusting CSBMs rather than on disarmament {ACR 402dEUR92}. The FSC had its first meeting on 22 September 1992 and met weekly thereafter in Vienna {23.11}, discussing proposals on harmonization {7.10}, data exchanges {21.10}, and non-proliferation {9.11}. The FSC finalized four agreements in 1993 {25.11}, covering military cooperation and contacts, defense planning information exchange, principles guiding transfers of conventional weapons, and stabilizing measures for crisis situations. {25.11.93}

Vienna Document 1994. In 1994, the FSC reached four additional agreements {5?6.12}, which were adopted at the Budapest Summit following a CSCE Review Conference. The agreements provided for the following CSBMs:
• An annual exchange of information on the defense planning and worldwide armed forces and armaments of FSC members (Global Exchange of Military Information or GEMI) and an institutionalized dialogue on the relevant data;
• Increased contacts between military personnel of all OSCE states;
• Notification 42 days in advance of military activities involving 9000 troops, 250 battle tanks, 500 armored combat vehicles, or 250 artillery pieces (or more);
• Annual reports on all military activities subject to notification;
• Monitoring of compliance with short-notice inspections; and
• Operation of a communication network for rapid transmission of information.
During NATO’s 1999 military attacks on Yugoslavia, Russia complained that it was denied inspection rights provided by the Vienna Document. {24.3, 25.12}

Budapest Review Conference 1994. The CSCE Review Conference met in Budapest on 10 October-2 December 1994. It formally changed the CSCE to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, recognizing the CSCE’s transformation from a cooperative process into an organization. In addition member states agreed to begin discussion on a “comprehensive security model for Europe for the 21st century,” which was adopted at the Lisbon summit in December 1996 (see ACR 402dEUR96).

Lisbon summit 1996. The OSCE summit in Lisbon on 2?3 December 1996 endorsed two FSC documents: A Framework for Arms Control and Development of the Agenda of the Forum for Security and Cooperation (see 402dEUR96 for texts). The Framework aimed at the development of the OSCE area “as an indivisible common security space” with “a web of interlocking and mutually reinforcing arms control obligations and commitments.” The new framework aimed to link existing arms control agreements such as the Adapted CFE Agreement (see 407), the Treaty on Open Skies, and the Sub-Regional Arms Control Agreement in the former Yugoslavia with future agreements in a comprehensive structure and develop new ways of dealing with the security concerns of all states in the OSCE area.

Istanbul summit 1999. The 1999 Review Conference took place from 20 September to 1 October in Vienna and on 8–10 November in Istanbul. The summit adopted the Vienna Document 1999 and the Charter for European Security. The Vienna Document 1999 integrates new and updated CSBMs, including revisions to the annual exchange of military information, visits to military installations, and observations of exercises. The Charter for European Security underpins the “OSCE role as the only pan-European security organization entrusted with ensuring the peace and stability in its area.” The Charter created the Rapid Expert Assistance and Cooperation Teams (REACT), which enhance the OSCE capability to offer assistance in civilian field operations.

Porto, Portugal, summit 2002.
The latest triennial summit focused on conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and peacekeeping. Since 1999, OSCE missions have played a growing role as mediators in internal and transnational conflicts, especially in Southeastern Europe—Kosovo-Serbia, Russia-Chechnya, Moldova-Transdniestria-Russia, Georgia-Abkhazia, Armenia-Azerbaijan, Georgia-South Ossetia—and in Russia-Georgia relations affected by the conflicts in Chechnya and in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Decisions were taken to establish an annual security review conference and commission OSCE studies, to be discussed at a December 2003 ministerial meeting, on trafficking in human beings, combating terrorism, defining an OSCE strategic role in security, OSCE peacekeeping capabilities, and the OSCE role in economic and environmental affairs.

Linked OSCE-NATO-CFE Issues. The conflicts between Russia and Georgia and Russia and Moldova stem in part from pockets of independence-minded Russian-speaking citizens in those two states, who have delayed the withdrawal of Russian bases and military equipment, as promised by Russia at the 1999 Istanbul summit. Though Russian withdrawal is not legally required under the terms of any existing treaty, most CFE countries have made it a pre-condition for their ratification the CFE Adaptation Agreement. The delay in ratification, in turn, poses a problem for Russia in connection with NATO expansion: In November 2002, NATO invited the Baltic countries bordering Russia to join NATO (see below) and in April 2004 they finally joined the Alliance. These countries are expected to accede to the CFE Treaty, which would prohibit a large build-up of foreign NATO armed forces on their territory; but since the original CFE Treaty is not open for accession, their joining the CFE awaits ratification of the Adapted Agreement, which does have provisions for accession.

Russian withdrawal of equipment from Moldova was expected to be completed by the end of 2003 (an extended deadline adopted at the Porto summit), but is still not finished. Russia and Georgia are conducting negotiations on the timeline for Russia to shut down two Russian bases (out of four) still operational in Georgia. The legal accession of the Baltic countries (and other new members) to NATO was completed by April 2004. Once Russian military withdrawal is complete, months will be required for ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty by some 25 states that have not yet ratified the agreement’s entry into force, and then accession by the Baltics. Therefore the Baltic states have become NATO members before they have acceded to the CFE Treaty. Russia has strenuously objected this development, and has threatened to withdraw from the CFE Treaty if the Baltic states have not joined it by the time they are members of NATO.

Location and Sessions. The FSC began meeting on 22 September 1992. It meets in Vienna weekly, with month-long breaks in the summer and around the turn of the year.

Agenda and Working Groups. The FSC discusses confidence- and security-building measures designed to reduce the risk of surprise attack and to build mutual trust. Like all other OSCE bodies, it makes decisions by consensus.


Founded in 1948, the Council of Europe is a pan-European organization for consultation, harmonization, and enforcement of laws on human rights and international and internal conflict. Like the OSCE, the Council of Europe comprises (in principle) all 48 European states. Unlike the OSCE and some other European security organizations, it excludes non-European members, that is, the United States, Canada, and Central Asian states. The Council of Europe also differs from the OSCE’s Forum on Security Cooperation, NATO, and the CFE process in that it does not does not negotiate or implement disarmament or military confidence-building measures. The Council’s activities and mandate overlap with those of the OSCE, however, in setting standards for human rights and democratic institutions among member countries. In this respect, the Council’s work complements that of the OSCE, as noted in the Council’s 1998 Recommendation 1381:

The OSCE [is dominant] in ... preventive diplomacy and crisis management due to its ability to respond rapidly, as well as the means put at its disposal, which ensure a long-term presence. The Council of Europe has a unique expertise in the field of human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law, which contributes to the structural prevention of conflict and to long-term ... post-conflict rehabilitation.... The OSCE relies increasingly on the Council of Europe’s instruments and expertise [in these areas].

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