The United States and the OSCE: A Partnership for Advancing FreedomDaniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission)
October 25, 2005
[The hearing was held at 3:00 p.m. in Room 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, Sam Brownback, Chairman, Helsinki Commission, moderating.]
BROWNBACK: Good afternoon. I'm delighted everybody's here. And my apologies for being late. I had another meeting that I was chairing, and I was there. And we just wrapped up.
Today's hearing on the Helsinki Commission is on the U.S. policy toward the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or the OSCE.
We have a scheduled a ministerial meeting in December, where reforms in the organization under consideration, numerous human rights concerns in parts of Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, will be the central issues. The view of the State Department on these and other matters are of keen interest to the commission and to others who monitor the OSCE region.
Well, I hope to look at some of the specific issues before us today. I hope we can also take a broader look at where the OSCE fits in U.S. policy. How vital is the organization to the promotion of U.S. interests in Europe and around the world? Has it adapted to the challenges we face in the 21st century?
Are we making sufficient use of its assets and capabilities, as we once did to advance human rights and freedom? What more can be done, and how can the Helsinki Commission and the State Department work together towards that end? This is my first year as chairman of the Helsinki Commission. I've tried to emphasize two aspects of OSCE considered particularly important in hearings and other activities during 2005.
First, while there is plenty of work to do on building democracy within OSCE states, OSCE also needs to look at the world around it. Terrorism is a global threat. And the OSCE can shape a common regional response. The same can be said about weapons of mass destruction and the means for their delivery. Certainly human rights abuses are a problem in the OSCE and around the world.
The OSCE can respond to these external threats by ensuring participating states adhere to OSCE commitments to combat terrorism, to safeguard everything from small-arms stockpiles, to nuclear materials, from rogue regimes and groups. The OSCE can also serve as a model and resource to address instability and human rights violations in other regions, like the Middle East and East Asia.
The need for the OSCE to do these things is why the commission has held hearings this year on the Russian-Syrian connection, as well as on the transatlantic response to Iran. That's why I addressed the conference on the OSCE security dimension in Seoul, Korea, earlier this year.
Co-chairman Smith and I both have a deep interest in the future of Africa and the universal nature of the desire to be free. It means the lessons learned in Europe might resonate in Africa, as well.
The second aspect of the OSCE which I've stressed is to keep a focus on real people. While one must attend to the diplomatic developments in Vienna, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the OSCE is really about the individuals out there struggling to exercise their right to freedom to worship, wanting to voice the concerns of youth trying to return to a home they fled during conflict, hoping simply to be free.
That's why this commission has held hearings this year on the Schneerson Collection and on the unregistered religious groups in Russia. It's why we are so concerned about the displaced Roma who continue to reside in lead-contaminated camps in Kosovo.
It's why we hear testimony from an American who was a domestic trafficking victim. You might note, as well, on the trafficking topic, there was a big show last night, and it continues -- it will be repeated tonight on Life Channel's -- I believe it's a two-hour program on trafficking, human trafficking. I was not able to see it last time, but the reports I've heard such far is quite good.
The Helsinki Final Act has always stood as a beacon for the silenced, the trafficked, the tortured, and the displaced. Its brightness fades, however, when the OSCE fails to turn its words into deeds or when the OSCE states fail to understand the dialogue is not just between one government and another, but between each government and the people it is supposed to serve.
Before introducing today's witnesses, I'd like to recognize an individual of particular note, Ludmilla Alexeeva. I hope I came close to saying it right. She's a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, which was formed in 1976. That was a bold time to step forward to be a part of the Helsinki Group.
I first traveled -- the only time I've been to Russia was 1977. It was not a free place at that time.
She has remained a respected part of that group. That institution is a key one on human rights movement in Russia today.
The creation of this Helsinki Commission was clearly related to the formation of the Moscow Helsinki Group. A story that Ludmilla tells in her book, "The Thaw Generation," that our own best efforts here can never match the courage and determination that she, Yuri Orlov, Natan Sharansky, and others displayed in the Soviet human rights movement in the 1970s and 1980s.
We lost Rosa Parks yesterday, one of the key people that stood for civil rights in this country. And I don't know if the comparison is fair or not, but you are certainly a person that didn't give your seat up on the bus in Moscow at a very tough time. And I want to thank you and recognize you for doing that.
Would you please stand and let us recognize you, please?
To do what you did in 1976 took courage.
And now, we want to -- Congressman Cardin -- I'm jumping ahead of myself -- do you have an opening statement to the...
CARDIN: Well, Mr. Chairman, I'm just going to ask unanimous consent to put my opening statement in the record and just underscore the points that you have made, that the Helsinki process is truly a unique institution.
It's unique in the sense that it's been, I think, the most effective international body in dealing with human rights and the human dimension. Obviously, very important beyond just the human dimension, but I think it is proven to be the most effective in bringing out change in countries on human rights issues.
And it's unique in the sense that it requires engagement by the countries. The key, it's a treaty. It's not a matter that you're going to bring for enforcement of treaty rights. It requires engagement and gives us the right to legitimately challenge the actions of all of the member states.
It's also unique in that it is an entity that works together the executive and legislative branch, as one entity, as one voice. And that's why I think this hearing is particularly useful and important. It carries out a tradition -- it continues a tradition of this commission to hold a hearing, inviting the assistant secretary to be here. And I very much thank you, Mr. Chairman, for providing this hearing, an opportunity for us to see how we can even improve the effectiveness of the Helsinki process and our commission in carrying out this very important work. So thank you.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Congressman.
I want to introduce and welcome our witness today, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Daniel Fried.
For more than 25 years, Assistant Secretary Fried either has been representing U.S. interests at diplomatic post in Russia, Central Europe, and the Balkans, or has been responsible for shaping U.S. policy in these countries and regions back here in Washington. In May of this year, he became the assistant secretary, with chief responsibilities for shaping U.S. policy towards the OSCE, as well as relations with OSCE states.
Assistant Secretary Fried, I want to thank you for your service on behalf of the United States. I look forward to hearing your comments.
And I want to build on something that I've heard Secretary Rice say. This is a key time for OSCE. If you look at the movement and the changes that are taking place and are possible to take place, the OSCE can really be -- should be -- one of the lead entities in helping to shape that region, that was the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence around it.
And I think it's done a remarkable job, and for the totality of its life, but particularly a very clear work here in recent years of what's taken place. And I look forward to the Helsinki Commission here, OSCE overall, working very closely to the State Department of what each of us can do to move forward human rights and freedom in that region of the world.
Assistant Secretary Fried, delighted to have you here. And thanks for your years of service.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressmen.
I am pleased to be here in this year marking the 30th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act to discuss the OSCE and its role in advancing not only the interests but the values of our nation. I'm grateful for the leadership and support you and other members of the commission have given to the Helsinki principles and OSCE over the years.
And I, too, feel honored to be here in the presence of Ludmilla Alexeeva. I personally, and I think many in this room, have been inspired by her work and the work of the Moscow Helsinki Group over the decades, which have brought us to a new and better place in Europe and the world.
In his second Inaugural Address, President Bush declared a policy of promoting democracy and freedom throughout the world. The OSCE, Mr. Chairman, is the premiere institution for advancing freedom in the Euro-Atlantic region.
On human rights and support for democracy, the so-called human dimension, its expertise and accomplishments are unparalleled. Its election observation methodology represents the gold standard in this field. And the OSCE's efforts have been instrumental in advancing democracy.
The organization has undertaken groundbreaking work in the promotion of tolerance and in combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. The OSCE is a valuable partner in our efforts to promote basic freedoms and human rights, including religious freedom and freedom of the media.
Its field missions are vital to the OSCE's work in many areas, and we strongly support their works in promoting security through good human rights, strong civil societies, and democratic practices.
The OSCE also performs important work in the security and economic spheres; it is a key instrument in helping solve regional conflicts, in countering terrorism, and combating trafficking in persons.
The significant role the OSCE in promoting democracy and freedom was well illustrated during the last year in the impartial election observation missions it conducted, most notably in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
Citizens of these countries demanded their leaders' adherence to OSCE commitments and to principles of freedom and democracy. They said "enough" to fraudulent elections. OSCE helped them voice their opinions and give them a legitimate vote.
Moreover, initial fraudulent elections in Ukraine bore witness to the importance of thorough and objective election observation, observation which provided both the international community and domestic citizens with a credible assessment on which to base demands for a legitimate outcome. The OSCE is continuing to work with the governments and civil society in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and other countries to help them create and maintain democratic and open societies based on the rule of law, which will make them stable and secure neighbors.
Another success this year was the OSCE Cordoba Conference. This well-attended event successfully drew high-level attention, not only to the problems of anti-Semitism and intolerance, but also to best practices for combating them. We believe that the OSCE should follow up on the 2004 Sofia Tolerance decision and the 2005 Cordoba conference, through regional seminars or expert-level meetings on implementation in 2006.
These will generate even more enthusiasm among governmental and non-government experts for implementing OSCE commitments and focus attention on specific ODIHR projects and national best practices. We support having high-level conferences along the lines of Cordoba and its predecessors every other year, to ensure high-level political attention to fulfillment of commitments. Also successful was our effort last year, together with NGO partners, to have the OSCE establish three personal representatives on tolerance. Throughout 2005, these representatives have traveled wildly to raise awareness of OSCE commitments and to support projects to assist OSCE states implementation of these commitments.
We strongly support the work of the personal representatives and support their reappointment in January 2006.
Similarly, we have provided significant political and financial support to the activities of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, in these areas of preventing hate crimes and discrimination. We recently seconded an expert to the post of legal adviser on hate crimes for ODIHR's Tolerance Program.
As with Cordoba, U.S. goals for this year's Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, held in Warsaw last month, were successfully met. They included reinforcing our commitments to human rights and democracy and showing support for NGOs working in these fields; generating political will among states for implementing OSCE commitments; responding accurately to criticisms of the U.S. about media freedom and human rights and the war on terrorism; and building support for U.S. positions on tolerance conferences, the three personal representatives on tolerance, OSCE reform, and other issues.
In addition to delegations from participating states, a record number of over 300 NGOs also participated in this year's Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, showcasing the OSCE's special ability to promote civil society through active cooperation.
I'm grateful for the participation of the Helsinki Commission staff, some of whom I'd had the pleasure of working for more years, I'm sure, than they or I would like to recall, participation of your staff as part of the U.S. delegation.
Not withstanding the OSCE's successes, the OSCE should continue to adapt, but not at the expense of its effectiveness. One of the key tasks facing the OSCE this fall is the question of reform. This process got under way with the recommendations made by the Eminent Persons Panel earlier this year.
We are closely examining these proposals that might -- and are looking especially at those that might enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization, but without undercutting its work in the human dimension. We are working with the Slovenian Chair, the European Union, and all other participating states to find ways to do just that.
The OSCE's work, through ODIHR and election monitoring, is rightly recognized as superb. Unfortunately, there have been calls by some states to review and even question election-related commitments and methodology.
We're amenable to review in areas where ODIHR's effectiveness could be enhanced; however, we are strongly against any proposals that would undermine election commitments or impinge on ODIHR's autonomy or effectiveness. We see no need to change something that works so well.
The issue here is not methodology but rather marshalling the political will among participating states to ensure implementation of existing commitments, thus allowing the voice of the electorate to be heard.
One of the OSCE's most important assets is its institutions and the 17 field presences, from the Balkans to Central Asia. We strongly support OSCE field work and believe that field offices are critical to promoting OSCE commitments, especially democratic values and international human rights standards.
In their work with host governments, NGOs and the public, field missions perform vital work in numerous fields, from institution- building, promotion of democracy and development of civil society, to coordinating international efforts at conflict prevention, post- conflict rehabilitation, and conflict resolution.
At the Ljubljana Ministerial in December, we will highlight the accomplishments of the OSCE in this anniversary year, while building support for the important work which still lies ahead.
While there has been some progress in negotiations between Georgia and Russia, we will again strongly urge Russia to fulfill its Istanbul commitments. We expect the ministerial to endorse OSCE work on promoting tolerance, gender equality, shipping container security, small arms and light weapons, MANPADS, and the destruction of excess stockpiles of ammunition and weapons.
The issue of how the OSCE funds itself is still unresolved, but we hope by the ministerial to have agreement on new OSCE scales of assessment. Russia is seeking a dramatic reduction in its contributions to the OSCE and remains the lone holdout among OSCE's 55 participating states on new scales.
The United States stands behind the criteria for adjustment of the scales adopted in 2001 and 2002.
Mr. Chairman, let me turn to Central Asia, which is a region where the OSCE has become more active in recent years and where it can have an important role in promoting democracy, civil society, and respect for human rights, as well as on security and economic issues. We do have serious concerns about developments in some countries in the region.
The killings in Andijan last May in Uzbekistan and the Uzbek's government reaction to demands for an impartial investigation are a particular example.
We're also paying attention to Kazakhstan, its upcoming elections. And the degree to which these are judged to be free and fair will be a critical element for the international community in observing and assessing Kazakhstan's development. This election of course forms but a part of the overall equation, and Kazakhstan has been making important steps forward in many areas. In the Caucasus, the United States is working as a co-chair of the OSCE's Minsk Group, as well as independently, to facilitate a peaceful negotiated settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Negotiations are moving in the right direction. In the past year, the Minsk Group co-chairs have facilitated numerous meetings of the Armenians and Azerbaijani foreign ministers and two meetings of the presidents, most recently on the margins of the CIS Summit in Kazan.
I'm encouraged by my visit last week to the South Caucasus. We believe that there is a realistic chance for progress, even in the coming months. Much depends on the political will of each side. And we do not expect further visible progress until after the November 6th Azerbaijani parliamentary elections.
Counterterrorism, Mr. Chairman, is an area where there is good cooperation among the 55 participating states and a united sense of purpose. The OSCE can, as you said, have a multiplier effect by the 55 to adopt decisions and standards on security and terrorism that many states might have otherwise ignored.
The State Department has worked closely with the OSCE's Anti- Terrorism Unit to provide expertise for a range of workshops aimed at helping other participating states improve their effectiveness in areas such as the use of the Internet to recruit terrorists.
In November, the State Department will co-sponsor a conference to be held in Vienna, which will bring together high-level officials from capitals to discuss new ways of combating terrorist financing.
Over the past year, the OSCE has continued to expand and strengthen its efforts on combating the modern-day slavery called trafficking in persons. In addition to establishment of the special representative on combating TIP, the Anti-Trafficking Assistance Unit got up and running, headed by a very effective U.S. expert, Michele Clark. We want to see this unit and the special representative focus OSCE activities on strategic priorities in the area where OSCE can make a difference.
The OSCE has also taken the lead in the international community in establishing a code of conduct for its mission members to ensure that they do not contribute to trafficking in persons. And this fall, the United States will again introduce a draft ministerial decision to strengthen this work and have OSCE States agree to take responsibility for their own peacekeeping troops and mission members.
This year, we have updated it to include the issue of preventing sexual exploitation by peacekeepers and international mission members. I would like to note the Parliamentary Assembly's declaration in Washington in support of this ministerial decision and thank Congressman Smith -- express my thanks to Congressman Smith for his leadership on this initiative.
Mr. Chairman, the OSCE has value and has demonstrated its value in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives and in the promotion of our common values. In promoting democratic development and respect for human rights, the OSCE is a lead organization in the Euro-Atlantic area. On economic development, the OSCE promotes good governance and helps countries put systems in place to fight corruption.
On political-military issues, such as the fight against terrorism, border security, small arms and light weapons, and excess stockpiles, the OSCE fills crucial gaps. It has proven itself an effective tool. It complements our bilateral, diplomatic and assistance efforts throughout Europe and Eurasia.
OSCE's successes would not be possible without support from the Congress and the congressional staff.
Let me again express my thanks, sir, for your work through the Helsinki Commission and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
And I would like to express also my appreciation for Congressman Hastings' activism as president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Mr. Chairman, I would like, with your permission, to submit a more comprehensive version of my remarks for the record. And with that, I look forward to answering any questions you might have and to a good and stimulating discussion.
Thank you, sir, for your attention.
BROWNBACK: Let me back you up. You've been in this region for 25 years, working Moscow -- kind of take me through some of the places you've worked, just if you could, just rattle them off.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Leningrad, in darker days. Belgrade, before the war, before the breakup of Yugoslavia. Poland, at the very beginning of freedom. Again in Poland as ambassador in the late 1990s. And in between times in Washington, Soviet desk, Polish desk, NSC in the '90s, and NSC in the current administration.
BROWNBACK: As you describe that, I just think it's been nothing short of an absolute profound period of time that you've witnessed and been a direct part of it. And as I mention in my written statement, I'm impressed, thankful, and you must be thankful to have lived during interesting times, although I'm sure it's given you some sleepless nights at many of those junctures along the way.
I want to take you to where we are right now on a couple of the election cycles, particularly in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. I know Secretary Rice just traveled recently to the Central Asian region, I though, delivering a very strong, balanced message, which I think is important for us to do.
What are the prospects for fair and free elections in those two countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: There are prospects for free and fair elections. There have been some problems, which we have noted. But the secretary in Astana and in my trip last week to Baku, we called for free and fair elections. We also have worked with both governments to provide specific suggestions and offers of support.
We want to see, in these countries and throughout the region, steady progress toward freer and freer elections, toward greater and greater respect for basic human rights, greater and greater space for civil society.
Mr. Chairman, I think we have to be bold and visionary about what it is we seek and clear about our vision of democracy. I think we also have to work with governments as they seek to do the right thing.
It is foolish to make predictions about events that haven't happened yet. I hope that these elections will give us the basis to continue our cooperation with these governments and cooperation with civil society in both of these countries to advance our objectives.
But in the meantime, we are doing everything we can with the government, with civil society, and through our programs of election support, and with the OSCE, to make sure that these elections are as good as can be achieved.
BROWNBACK: Have the precursor steps been taken to see that these are free and fair elections? By that, I mean, in Azerbaijan, have the steps leading up to the elections thus far led one to believe that, by and large, these are going to be free and fair? Obviously, things can change dramatically.
But there's also a set-up process that -- are candidates being allowed to campaign? Or are they arrested in jail somewhere? Do people have access to the media? Are those precursor steps to a free and fair election taking place in those two countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: The situation in both countries is mixed. There are active opposition candidates. There is an opposition press. In Baku, the opposition candidates have had access to television.
I met with them. I met with the two leading opposition candidates in the presidential elections in Kazakhstan, which I visited two weeks prior to Secretary Rice's visit. I met with opposition figures, including parliamentary candidates, in Baku.
The picture is mixed. And I said so publicly in my remarks -- in public remarks in Baku. There is some good, some areas for improvement. We are working with and speaking to the Azerbaijani government about some specific suggestions.
The most recent news -- and we trying to get details -- but news coming today suggests that the government of Azerbaijan has taken significant steps to resolve one of the concerns the international community had, which was a finger-inking of voters to prevent vote fraud, multiple voting. It seems that the government of Azerbaijan wants to pursue this and wants to pull this together before the elections. We're seeking details.
So the picture, Senator, is a mixed one, but we hope to see elections which are as good as possible, contested elections, and we hope to see these elections followed by more progress. And we will be very clear, working with the OSCE, in making both recommendations and assessments.
BROWNBACK: What specifics can you identify in each of these countries that need to be address, prior to the election, for these elections to be free and fair?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, issue of media access -- although, as I said, there has been television access for opposition candidates in both countries. There are occasionally charges that these state media tends to be slanted in favor of the incumbents. There are charges that the print media does not have the circulation that it should have.
There have been issues in Azerbaijan about demonstrations. The atmosphere in Baku tends to be rather polarized, as is often the case in pre-electoral situations. We have urged that the government permit demonstrations. We have also urged that the opposition commit itself to peaceful demonstrations and commit itself to behaving as an opposition the way you would want the opposition to behave were it in government.
So there is a great deal of work to be done. And we are in contact with both the governments and oppositions, and working with the OSCE to convey the recommendations of ODIHR missions, to convey our own suggestions, and work with governments when they express a willingness to work with us.
BROWNBACK: What is the current state of relationship between the United States and Uzbekistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Difficult, in a word. I was in Uzbekistan about three- and-a-half weeks ago. We were deeply troubled...
BROWNBACK: Were you able to meet with President Karimov?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I was, sir. My message to the Uzbekistan government is that we cannot have a one-dimensional relationship with Uzbekistan purely based on security. I recalled from my Uzbek interlocutors the joint statement that the Uzbek and the American government agreed to and issued in 2002, when President Karimov visited Washington.
That statement outlined a broad set of objectives in our relations, starting with cooperation to support democracy and civil society. I said that my government adhere to that model of relations, a broad model, in which we pursue our interests in reform, our interest in counterterrorism and security, and our economic interests with Uzbekistan and support its reforms.
I regret that those reforms have not moved as quickly as we would like. The Andijan killings, which it is fair to say did start with an attack on government institutions in the prison, turned into a killing of civilians, several hundred. The exact number is not known.
And we regret that the government of Uzbekistan has not to this day seen fit to allow a credible outside investigation, which would help clarify those events. So I have to say that our relations are difficult. I suppose they would not be difficult if we were willing to simply give up our democracy and give up our human rights agenda, but we are not. We will continue to speak out about the totality of our interests in that country. And I hope that relations improve.
BROWNBACK: What was President Karimov's comments to you about the Uzbek-U.S. relationship?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, Senator, I probably shouldn't characterize a leader's comments to me during a private conversation. But I will say that, while we hope to put our relations back on track, on the basis of the joint statement of 2002, which, as I said, included democracy and support for democratic reform, I fear we are in for a difficult period.
In the course of the trial of persons arrested in Uzbekistan in connection with the Andijan, the prosecution has made accusations that the United States was somehow involved, involved, I should say, in the initial attacks on the prison.
I said in Uzbekistan and elsewhere, when I was asked about this, that I would find it exceedingly odd that an American government would be accused of complicity with people who are regarded -- who the Uzbek government regards as Islamist extremists.
They believe that Islamist extremists were responsible for the attack. I pointed out that it's rather absurd to accuse the United States of complicity with such people. Our government has been criticized for various things, but not, to my knowledge, for complicity with Islamist extremists. That seemed to be an utterly fanciful and ridiculous charge. It's one I regret that has been made.
BROWNBACK: What about with Russia and Russia's commitment to human rights and democratic principles? You've been a long-term observer of Russia and knowledgeable informing policy. Are they headed in the right direction now? Is the trend line headed in the right direction or not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: The answer to that partially depends on where your baseline is. If we start with 1976, obviously the founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the trend line has been very good. This is not the Soviet Union. I don't have experience of the Soviet Union as did Soviet citizens, but I spent some time there.
In recent years, we have been -- and we have expressed concern about the certain trends in Russia, particularly the centralization of power. And we have said that it seems to us that one of the hallmarks of democracy is the existence of strong and independent institutions, both institutions of government and institutions independent of government.
That is a hallmark of -- not simply of American democracy, but of democracies generally. How the Russians choose to do this is a matter for them, but democracies do have things in common.
We have expressed our concerns. We have done so privately. We have done so publicly. Secretary Rice and the president have been quite clear about this. It's important to keep in mind that this is not -- despite some of our concerns, this is not the Soviet Union we're dealing with.
But we have to be clear about what it is we seek. We have to be clear about where we stand. And we have to be consistent. And I think we've been so.
BROWNBACK: Establishing a baseline, which I think is a fair point -- let us establish a baseline in the year 2000 on Russia. Is the trend line going in the right direction on democracy and human rights, from a 2000 baseline?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: There are issues of concern from 2000 that we have raised. And I think it is important that we continue to speak out about our concerns and, at the same time, recognize the progress that Russia has made.
It requires both clarity about where we see problems and perspectives about where we see progress. In the long run, I am optimist about Russia, because I believe that the desire for freedom is universal and I believe that modern, well-functioning democracies actually provide better lives for their citizens, and that the Russian people, like all people, will insist on accountable government and have been insisting on accountable government at times in the past.
So we look forward to working with you to express both our concerns but also our perspectives.
BROWNBACK: You stated it very diplomatically so there's not a quotable line there, and that's a nice job.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, I am supposed to be a diplomat.
BROWNBACK: And well-practiced in it. I just I would note that there's been concerns by a lot of people, expressed over some period of time, that Russia, simply within the last couple of years, has really not lived up to its commitment not its stature in the world, nor what it should be doing for its own people in moving this forward.
And I think the trend line has been moving pretty clearly in the wrong direction in recent years. And I know the administration is concerned about that and I hope can continue to push it.
I want to ask you about China. Increasingly, we've seen recently that voracious appetite for natural resources, raw resources, by China, and seemingly driving a fair amount of foreign policy decisions by China just simply based upon the desire, the greater consumption need for natural resources.
Do you see that having an impact in the region of South Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia, this great Chinese drive for additional raw resources?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I see it differently in different places. In the South Caucasus, China is not or has not yet been as large a factor as it may be in Central Asia. And we have to look still differently on the Chinese presence in Eastern Siberia.
I think that China is interested in Russian energy resources. It is interested in Central Asia. China has been increasingly its presence and profile worldwide. I'm not an expert on China. It's beyond my field of expertise.
I'll just say it's certainly in our interest that China's emergence take place in a way that is consistent with international norms, the rule of law, and in a way that is compatible with our own interests and the interests of our friends.
When I was in Central Asia, it was clear to me that the leaders who think most strategically about the future of their region see a challenge of establish -- one of the challenges has been the establishment of sovereignty, considering their neighborhood.
As they put it, we have some very big neighbors. To the north, to the east, there is some problems to the south, and we are far away from you and far away from Europe.
They are looking for ways to strengthen their sovereignty. My advice to my Central Asian friends was that economic reform and political reform actually does strengthen your sovereignty, because a strong, well-run, successful state has no need of outside patrons because it generates support from within.
And the greater the sovereignty of a given country, the greater its ability to handle challenges from larger neighbors.
BROWNBACK: I think that's wise advice. I just would add to it that my experience and observation of China, and particularly in Africa is where I've seen the most impact, is it will do whatever it needs to and work with whoever to drive the natural resources.
And it can work with some pretty bad actors in a lot of places without much concern at all for human rights, democracy, individual freedoms, trafficking, militant Islam. It's kind of agnostic, apolitical on all of the above, but will desire to try to get as much as it can, in a way of a natural resource basis into places, that it's something for us to push back against aggressively, if it's being done in a harmful way to the whole world.
I have no problem competing for natural resources, but I do if it's done on the basis of -- we support a terrorist regime as a way of getting that, or that they move into a place -- Uzbekistan has less in the way of oil resources, but it has other natural resources, that a China moves in there simply because Uzbekistan has been a bad actor and now here's an opportunity.
I think that's something we should pushing back aggressively in the region and against the Chinese on, which is another portfolio than yours.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I do agree that an American presence in the region, whether it is economic, or military, or political, in support of reforms, can be very useful for these countries as they are finding their way. We want good partners in the region with whom we can work on a common agenda.
BROWNBACK: I hope you'll keep working with us. OSCE is an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. But I think, as a bilateral setting, this one's well-established, well-positioned, and something that we can work very closely on, Russia, Central Asia, these elections that are stepping forward.
And I really do hope we can do that, and also push back against Russia on some of the OSCE reforms that it's pushing that would gut OSCE overall. And I certainly think we need to use the last part of OSCE, of security and cooperation and economic issues, you know, working with those as much as we can, as well.
But the notion of the rhetorical attacks that Russia's putting on OSCE -- obviously, OSCE is pushing back against, but I'm hopeful the administration will be as aggressive and as bold as possible in that, as well.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: We will resist efforts from any quarter to weakened OSCE's ability to carry out its mandate and especially its mandate to observe elections.
ODIHR is a flexible instrument. It has a great deal of autonomy. It has proven itself to be both expert and flexible. And we do not want to see any reforms which would weaken ODIHR's ability to do what it has been doing well.
We don't think it's broken. We don't see a need to fix it.
BROWNBACK: You're right. It's just, with the office of Security and Cooperation in Europe, it's a long-standing entity. It's really -- I think one of the pinnacles of its effectiveness is right now. And one of the last things we need is that to be gutted, for some of the juice to be taken away from it.
These are the reforms that are needed in that region, and this is the entity to work through. And I'm glad to hear that strong statement from the administration on it.
Secretary, thank you very much for joining us. I wonder if you would mind giving me the pleasure of inviting up the lady that helped start the Helsinki and Moscow, just to make some comments. I'd hate to have somebody here in the room that's been such a clear standard- bearer without inviting her to make a few comments.
Would you care to come forward and join us, Ludmilla? I know you have no prepared context or any text...
LUDMILLA ALEXEEVA: No, it's small notes, of course. I would like to say that (inaudible) the 23rd Union of Soviet Allies were totalitarian states. And Helsinki process has demonstrated greater attention to force the totalitarian regimes to fulfill obligations of humanitarian articles of the Helsinki agreements.
Moscow Helsinki Group, which been mentioned today, was founded just to use mechanism of the Helsinki Final Act for that aim, to force a totalitarian state to respect human rights and freedom, to fulfill humanitarian articles of Helsinki agreements.
And it has been very successful in that, very much thanks to support of Helsinki Commission and first chief of Helsinki Commission, personally Congressman Dante Fascell.
I think, in today's situation, Helsinki process may be used very effectively, too, with the same aim, to force to respect human rights and freedoms in states participants of OSCE, which have totalitarian or at least authoritarian regimes. I mean such countries as Byelorussia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and, unfortunately, my country, the Russian Federation.
The very important aim would be to restore -- I mean, just about Russia. The very important would be to restore OSCE mission in Chechnya, because, in Chechnya, any legislation is absent of human rights (inaudible) everyday on very terrible men.
And second what is very important, is not only for Russian citizens' sake, but for whole world, is to have OSCE observers elections in 2007 and 2008 in our country, parliamentary elections and federal and presidential elections. And I would believe you know why I say, why I suggest it.
BROWNBACK: Well, I just want to recognize and thank you for being so bold and courageous. It's one thing to do it now, but you were there in 1976, and just a very clear, bold leader.
I know Natan Sharansky fairly well, have worked with him a number of times. And I'm just always impressed to see him, and to see how he stood so long and so firm. And because of -- frequently, in these systems, it's not -- you never get to a majority. You get a few bold people that are willing to stand and speak truth, and the place falls over time. It doesn't happen immediately.
ALEXEEVA: Well, it was like miracle, but it was -- I do believe that it's possible to repeat today, because it's much easier to make today in Russia than it was to force the Soviet Union to respect humanitarian articles of Final Act.
Of course, it was reached because United States took the time to cooperate efforts of all democratic countries, signatories of Final Act. In today's situation, it will be difficult, too, but I remember the first stage of this process. And no one European country since beginning didn't support the United States and President Carter to push Soviet Union to respect humanitarian articles.
And in today's situation, to reach is difficult, too, but I think it's possible, too, as it was possible in '70s.
BROWNBACK: Well, God bless you. You inspire us all. I really appreciate you being here.
Thank you, Assistant Secretary Fried. Thank you very much. I appreciate your testimony and your work.
And with that, we will adjourn the hearing. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon the hearing ended at 4:03 p.m.]