Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau today stated that the threat of war in the area covered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the greatest now than it has been in thirty years. That effectively includes the period of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in 1991 to the present moment. Poland currently has the chairmanship of the OSCE.
Employing the alliterative catchphrase in use since the OSCE was established in 1975, he intoned:
“We have gathered today in Vienna to enter into another year of work, which has one overarching aim: to bring peace to the people living in the area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.”
He specifically referenced the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine in stating, “For several weeks we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe.”
The OSCE was created in Helsinki, Finland in 1975 and its founding document is known as the Helsinki Final Act. The organization has 57 members: most all nations in Eurasia and the U.S. and Canada, with partners in the Middle East, North Africa and the South Pacific.
The Helsinki Final Act was recently cited by former Pentagon and NATO official Evelyn Farkas in an opinion piece that reads like a declaration of war against Russia. It is one of several agreements and charters she accused Russia of violating.
The document is lengthy, running to 62 pages in the official online version provided by the OSCE.
Section II, Refraining from the threat or use of force, reads as follows;
The participating States will refrain in their mutual relations, as well as in their international relations in general, from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations and with the present Declaration. No consideration may be invoked to serve to warrant resort to the threat or use of force in contravention of this principle.
Accordingly, the participating States will refrain from any acts constituting a threat of force or direct or indirect use of force against another participating State.
Likewise they will refrain from any manifestation of force for the purpose of inducing another participating State to renounce the full exercise of its sovereign rights. Likewise they will also refrain in their mutual relations from any act of reprisal by force.
No such threat or use of force will be employed as a means of settling disputes, or questions likely to give rise to disputes, between them.
The U.S.’s and NATO’s 78-day air war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 is in flagrant violation of that principle, as was NATO’s bombing campaign in Bosnia in 1995 and its military deployment to Macedonia in 2001 after covertly assisting the invasion of the country from NATO-occupied Kosovo.
Section III is titled Inviolability of frontiers and contains the provision that participating nations will “refrain from any demand for, or act of, seizure and usurpation of part or all of the territory of any participating State.”
Again NATO’s occupation of Kosovo in 1999, which all the world understood as the seizure of territory of a sovereign nation notwithstanding assurances to the contrary by the U.S. and NATO, is a violation of that principle.
Section IV. Territorial integrity of States states that signatories “will refrain from any action inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations against the territorial integrity, political independence or the unity of any participating State, and in particular from any such action
constituting a threat or use of force.”
It also includes:
The participating States will likewise refrain from making each other’s territory the object of military occupation or other direct or indirect measures of force in contravention of international law, or the object of acquisition by means of such measures or the threat of them. No such occupation or acquisition will be recognized as legal.
Section V, Peaceful settlement of disputes, says what the name indicates: “The participating States will settle disputes among them by peaceful means in such a manner as not to endanger international peace and security, and justice….In the event of failure to reach a solution by any of the above peaceful means, the parties to a dispute will continue to seek a mutually agreed way to settle the dispute peacefully.”
Section VI, Non-intervention in internal affairs, is worth quoting in its entirety:
The participating States will refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective, in the internal or external affairs falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another participating State, regardless of their mutual relations.
They will accordingly refrain from any form of armed intervention or threat of such intervention against another participating State.
They will likewise in all circumstances refrain from any other act of military, or of political, economic or other coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by another participating State of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.
Accordingly, they will, inter alia, refrain from direct or indirect assistance to terrorist activities, or to subversive or other activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another participating State.
On Section III, Inviolability of frontiers, it was commonly understood at the time of the Act being agreed upon by both sides of the Cold War, that it strongly supported the notion that national borders as drawn up at the end of World War II, in Europe at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, were to be preserved; that World War II in fact was caused by efforts to redraw borders in Europe and a replication of such efforts might result in a new world war.
In the thirty-year interim that Foreign Minister Rau invokes, what has happened to borders in Europe?
Thirty new states have been created in Europe and from non-European Russia in the past thirty years. Seven of those currently – Abkhazia, the Donetsk republic, Kosovo, the Lugansk republic, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transnistria – are recognized by many, by few or by no nations.
All thirty came out of only three nations: The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
All three of the latter were founded in the aftermath of the First World War. All were multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic.
The two nations that provided 28 of the 30 new states, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, were also Europe’s only real multi-confessional/religious states (with the exception, barely, of Albania, which has a small Christian minority).
The term Eastern Europe as used here, then, includes all of former historical Russia as well as the Soviet Union.
Since 1991 outside of Eastern Europe there have only emerged two new countries and one is unique: South Sudan and East Timor/Timor-Leste. The second was part of Portugal until the latter’s revolution of 1974. Before Timor could achieve its independence it was invaded and subjugated by Indonesia (1975). It left the latter country in 1999.
Which countries have not lost territory or been divided?
Belgium, where Flemings have advocated for independence for decades.
Corsica has not been allowed to leave France.
The Basque region has not been allowed to leave Spain.
Scotland hasn’t left the United Kingdom.
The almost infinite regress into what was once aptly termed mono-ethnic statelets has occurred only in the region indicated above.
One could add Denmark with Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Portugal with the Azores, Spain with the Canary Islands, Britain’s fifteen overseas territories in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Antarctic Oceans, and France with possessions in the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean.
The nations mentioned in the last paragraph are NATO members, all but one founding members, and the territories in question, all non-contiguous and separated by seas and oceans, are remnants of colonial empires.
But as American and NATO leaders repeated assert, there can be no spheres of influence. And the Helsinki Final Act is sacrosanct.