Accessibility links

OSCE Summit: Diplomats Struggle Over Differences In European Security Structure

  • Roland Eggleston

Lisbon, 1 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Diplomats preparing for tomorrow's European security summit are struggling to overcome differences between the United States and Russia on a declaration about a new security structure in Europe.

Diplomats said today that Russia, supported by some other countries, was seeking a strong commitment which would be politically binding on all 54 member-states. It wants to give the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is sponsoring the summit, a leading role in European security.

The latest U.S. proposal, circulated last night, proposes only "cooperation" on security issues, but agrees that discussions could begin next year on concrete issues on which cooperation might be possible or desirable.

U.S. officials said President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Defense Department are concerned that Russia wants to create a pan-European security system which would weaken the powerful influence of NATO. Russia's membership would give it an important role in European security which it now lacks.

The U.S. officials said Russia apparently also believes that creating a pan-European system would undermine the efforts of several Central European countries to join NATO. Russian officials have made it clear that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will again stress Russia's opposition to the expansion of NATO in his talks at the summit.

Our correspondent says documents circulating around the conference today indicate the importance the summit will give to European security and the role which might be played by the OSCE. All are being constantly modified and rewritten in an attempt to attract the necessary support of all 54 active members of OSCE.

One document, entitled "A Framework For Arms Control," proposes that OSCE create "a web of interlocking and mutually reinforcing arms control obligations and commitments."

The authors argue that the basis for such a web already exists through a number of OSCE documents, including the CFE Treaty on limiting the size and location of conventional weapons and others allowing increased transparency regarding military forces and their activities.

The document says a formal "Framework for Arms Control" would contribute to the development of the OSCE area as an "indivisible common security space." It would also "enable OSCE states to deal with specific security problems in appropriate ways, not in isolation but as part of an overall OSCE undertaking to which all are committed.".

The document argues that challenges and risks in the field of military security still exist in the OSCE area and others may arise in future. It therefore suggests a number of issues which could be addressed within the proposed "Framework For Arms Control."

U.S. diplomats told correspondents today they were studying these ideas carefully and were doubtful about some of them.

It suggests the proposed framework could concern itself with military imbalances which may contribute to instability. It could also ensure that no OSCE member-state, organization or grouping strengthens its security at the expense of the security of others -- or regards any part of the OSCE area as a particular sphere of influence.

The authors say the Framework could also ensure "that the presence of foreign troops on the territory of an OSCE member-State is in conformity with the freely-expressed will of the host state, international law or a relevant decision of the United Nations security council". It could also "ensure that the evolution or establishment of multinational military and political organizations is fully compatible with the OSCE's comprehensive and co-operative concept of security, and is also fully consistent with arms control goals and objectives."

Another military security paper circulating at the summit concerns future tasks for OSCE's Forum for Security Co-Operation, which was established at the Budapest summit meeting in 1994. A debate earlier this month on the Forum's work decided that its achievements since 1994 had been modest. It has not produced a single agreed document. It was suggested that this was partly because it did not have a definite program.

The proposal circulating in Lisbon suggests 11 possible issues on which the Forum could focus. They include the exchange of information on internal security forces, more transparency about the structure and operations of armed forces, the extension of military confidence-building measures to naval activities and the elaboration of measures regarding the deployment of armed forces on foreign territory, including their transborder movements.