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OSCE Ministerial Council: Pro-Western Figures in Spotlight, Growing Pressure on Russia, Belarus

© AFP 2023 / JONATHAN NACKSTRANDDelegates are seen at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Stockholm, on December 2, 2021.
Delegates are seen at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Stockholm, on December 2, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.12.2021
As Sweden concludes its term as a chair in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), member states such as Russia and Belarus find themselves under growing pressure.
The 28th OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm has become one of the few major political events in 2021, where top diplomats from 57 member states have had a chance to meet in person and share views on security and cooperation. The Swedish government has made the event open to the media from all over the world, with journalists being actually invited to Stockholm rather than participating online.
When it comes to the overall political tone of the event, there was a strong pro-US and pro-NATO political slant in the rhetoric at the council meetings and on the sidelines, with non-Euro-Atlantic proposals being unwelcome.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who took part in the plenary sessions and held several bilateral meetings in Stockholm, Russia’s initiative on preventing the use of the Internet by terrorists, which is backed by the Collective Security Treaty Organisaton (CSTO), was outright rejected by the OSCE.

“Unfortunately, our Western partners have removed our initiative from the agenda without any explanation,” said Lavrov. “Actually, it was obvious that it didn’t suit them that it was Russia’s initiative."

Russia’s CSTO ally Belarus also experienced its share of pressure at the OSCE Ministerial Council. Even though the country’s foreign minister Vladimir Makey was present in Stockholm and had a series of meetings with top diplomats, it seems that the organisers and the Swedish media have shifted their attention to exiled Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was appearing on TV shows, giving interviews on the sidelines of the OSCE event, and meeting American diplomats and Swedish government officials.
In August of 2020, Tikhanovskaya received 10.9 percent of the votes at the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, losing to Alexander Lukashenko, who got more than 80 percent. Swedish authorities, however, have made it clear that they prefer to support the opposition.
According to the Swedish government's website, on Friday Tikhanovskaya was invited to a meeting with the country’s EU minister Hans Dahlgren.

“Sweden and the EU have an important role in promoting a positive development in the country by putting pressure on the regime and supporting the forces that work for a democratic Belarus,” said Dahlgren before the meeting.

Both Russia and Belarus are being constantly bombarded with threats of western sanctions, and on the sidelines of the OSCE council Russia’s top diplomat gave his view on yet another round of economic restrictions against Moscow over the situation in Ukraine.

“Practically everywhere at the talks, which include countries that do not share western views, at first we see a threat of sanctions, and then they are being imposed if someone is not abiding,” Lavrov said.

He also pointed at factors, which, in his opinion, get in the way of pragmatism within international organisations, such as the OSCE:

“I certainly hope that we’re not dealing with a regrettable fact that the westerners have lost the ability for negotiation, and that it’s the Russophobic current within NATO and the EU that does not allow them to do real work, to set aside confrontation, to do things that OSCE was made for doing.”

The OSCE was established in 1973 following international talks initiated by the USSR, and is currently the world’s largest security-oriented bloc. The organisation’s summits end with the acceptance of consensus declarations, which are not legally binding – a fact, which is criticised by some experts who say that OSCE meetings are therefore “a big effort for nothing."
Sweden is now passing the chairmanship on to Poland, which will be at the OSCE helm in 2022 with the next ministerial council to be held in Lodz.
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