“Lasting peace and prosperity require respect for both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries and the human rights of all people,” declared Secretary of State Antony Blinken in remarks before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, meeting of Ministers in Sweden.
Just as there is a connection between freedom and stability, so is there a connection between domestic repression and cross-border aggression. Secretary Blinken emphasized that: “... countries that systematically violate human rights at home sow instability in other countries … and rulers who abuse their power and ignore the rights of their people give license to leaders in other places to do the same.”
Secretary Blinken noted that “Right now, despite the steadfast efforts of the OSCE, democratic values, human rights, civil society, independent media, the rule of law are all facing a significant challenge across many countries.” Indeed, “Belarus continues to break international law and OSCE commitments,” stated Secretary Blinken. He continued: “We again call on Belarusian authorities to cease their violent crackdown, release all political prisoners, heed the demands of the people for free and fair elections under independent observation, and cease the outrageous weaponization of migration.”
Russia also continues to violate foundational OSCE commitments. The seizure by force of Crimea has brought relentless abuses against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and others who peacefully oppose this occupation. Secretary Blinken added, “We are deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for further significant aggression against Ukraine, and so we call on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to de-escalate, reverse the recent troop buildup, return forces to normal peaceful positions, and to implement the Minsk commitments, especially the ceasefire provisions and those allowing OSCE monitors unfettered access.”
In Georgia, Russia is flouting conventional arms control commitments as it maintains forces in the Russia-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops remain entrenched in Moldova without Moldova’s consent. At home, Russia has cracked down on civil society organizations, the latest being key branches of the respected human rights group Memorial, as well as independent media.
“We believe in the power of democracies to make each other stronger and in the potential for countries that are not yet democracies to grow in that direction for the good of their people,” declared Secretary Blinken. The OSCE remains a key forum for advancing that vision.