March 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2022
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SECURITY COUNCIL AND WIDER UN STRUCTURE

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

Expected Council Action

In March, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, in his capacity as the new Chairman-in-Office (CiO) for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is expected to brief the Security Council on the organisation’s activities.

Background and Key Recent Developments

The chair of the OSCE rotates yearly, and on 1 January, Poland succeeded Sweden in this function. March’s briefing will give Rau an opportunity to inform the Council about Poland’s main priorities as chair and discuss possible avenues for UN-OSCE cooperation.

Poland has indicated that, during its term as CiO, it will be guided by a human-centred approach and will focus on supporting OSCE’s conflict-resolution processes and promoting comprehensive assistance to conflict-affected populations. Poland outlined its priorities as OSCE chair at a 13 January session of the OSCE Permanent Council. At that meeting, Rau said that the risk of war in the OSCE area was at its highest point in the past 30 years. The crisis in and around Ukraine, he added, poses a challenge to Europe’s stability and security. He emphasised that the Polish term would ensure that the OSCE plays a key role in addressing the current security situation in eastern Europe.

While the situation in Ukraine is not the only focus of March’s briefing, developments on the issue are likely to dominate the discussions. The conflict in eastern Ukraine has consistently featured in the work of each CiO since hostilities began in 2014. The OSCE is the most prominent regional organisation operating in Ukraine and is directly responsible for monitoring the 2015 Minsk II agreement, which outlined steps for ending the conflict in Ukraine through a political settlement. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) gathers daily information related to ceasefire violations and the withdrawal of heavy weapons in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Additionally, the OSCE participates in the work of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG)—consisting of the OSCE, Russia and Ukraine—which serves as a forum for addressing implementation aspects of the Minsk agreements. Members may be interested in hearing about the impact of the current crisis in Ukraine on the work of the SMM and the future of the Minsk II agreement.

Given the OSCE’s presence and access to information on the ground, Rau’s briefing may provide Council members with an opportunity to learn more about recent developments on the ground following Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine. On 23 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Shortly after the announcement, explosions were heard across several cities in central and eastern Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Since 24 February, Russia has been attacking Ukraine on multiple fronts—including western cities such as Lviv and the southern city of Kherson—from  land, air and sea. The Russian military has been carrying out rocket attacks targeting airports and military installations and ground forces are reportedly using missiles and long-range artillery as they advance into mainland Ukraine. As at 27 February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented at least 94 civilian deaths and 282 injuries, while noting that these figures may be an underestimate. Moreover, at least 368,000 people have fled Ukraine since the attacks began on 24 February, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The aggression against Ukraine follows several months of heightened tensions resulting from Russia’s build-up of military forces near Ukraine’s borders. The Security Council held six meetings on the situation in Ukraine between 31 January and 28 February. Tabled by the US and Albania, co-penholders on Ukraine, a draft resolution deploring Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was put to a vote on 25 February. The draft text also welcomed and urged the continued efforts of the OSCE to support de-escalation of the current situation. However, the resolution failed to be adopted owing to a Russian veto. On 27 February, the Council adopted a draft resolution calling for an “emergency special session” (ESS) of the General Assembly to consider and recommend collective action on the situation in Ukraine. This was followed by a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine on 28 February. (For more information, see our 31 January16 February, 22 February25 February, and 27 February What’s in Blue stories.)

In addition to the situation in Ukraine, Rau may address other conflict situations in the OSCE’s area of operations during the briefing. The OSCE plays a role in international efforts regarding frozen conflicts in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria. Given that these conflicts are not regularly discussed by the Council, some members might want to use the briefing to hear about the OSCE’s mediation efforts in these situations.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Most Council members strongly support the work of the OSCE. However, reaching agreement on Council products on UN-OSCE cooperation is difficult because of members’ sharply diverging positions on issues within the OSCE’s purview, most notably Ukraine, and on the broader European security architecture. At the 28th meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council on 2 December 2021, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said that the OSCE is “in a depressing state today” and that it had become “hostage to the bloc-based discipline within the European Union and NATO”.

Putin has long argued that the enlargement of NATO poses an existential threat to Russia.  In an opinion piece published on 5 January, Rau indicated a readiness to hold a dialogue on a revised European security paradigm to address Russia’s concerns. On 8 February, Rau launched the OSCE’s Renewed European Security Dialogue initiative, stating that “it is imperative that through diplomacy and dialogue we shall find a way to de-escalate, and to begin rebuilding trust, transparency and cooperation”. The subsequent Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, which most Council members have deplored, poses a major challenge to the European security order.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE OSCE
Security Council Resolutions
17 February 2015S/RES/2202 This was a resolution that endorsed the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” signed on 12 February 2015.
Security Council Meeting Records
17 February 2022S/PV.8968 This was a briefing on the situation in Ukraine, organised by Russia to mark the seventh anniversary of the Minsk II agreement and to discuss its implementation.
31 January 2022S/PV.8960 This was an open meeting on Ukraine, under the agenda item “Threats to international peace and security”.

 

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