At the recent Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, Ministerial meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed that "[w]e advance the security and prosperity of our citizens when we advance the timeless principles that are at the heart of the OSCE."
These principles include democratic governance and the rule of law, anti-corruption, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every state, the dignity of each individual, and an unflinching stand against anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian bigotry and intolerance of any kind.
The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and the Russian occupation of Crimea are of particular concern. It is in the interest of all to end the suffering and the stalemate, and that is why the United States continues to support France and Germany in their efforts as mediators within the Normandy format. The United States strongly backs the Trilateral Contact Group of the OSCE, Ukraine, and Russia and renews its call for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
At the same time, Russia’s ongoing aggression in eastern Ukraine and occupation of Crimea must not obscure the longer-term challenge that Ukraine is tackling: the task of building a healthy democracy. And the fight against corruption and for reform is what the people of Ukraine rightly recognize as the decisive battlefield.
"Their determination to live in a democratic society governed by the rule of law," said Secretary Kerry, "demands our support."
There are other conflicts in the OSCE that still fester, including between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Moldova and Georgia. In too many places in the OSCE region, there has been a rise of authoritarian thinking, accompanied by backsliding on human rights, restrictions on independent media, a spike in acts of intolerance and hate crimes.
"Bigotry, repression, and the silencing of dissent cannot become the new normal for any of us," said Secretary Kerry. "Every chip away at the fundamentals of freedom is actually an ugly building block in the road to tyranny."
A free press, religious liberty, political openness, transparency in governance, and a flourishing civil society are the signs of a thriving nation. When people and institutions are denied these rights, the OSCE will continue to speak out.