Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the security landscape has changed dramatically and many conflicts have appeared with elements such as regional, linguistic, ethnic, or religious affiliation. The climate of increased ethnic tensions affected not only the Central Asian countries but also other Soviet successor states in the early 1990s. For example, the Tajik and Georgian Civil Wars reflected conflicts that were combinations of ethnic, political and religious factors. These conflicts were quite dangerous for stability and security throughout Central Asia and its neighboring regions. It can be said that international interest towards the Central Asian states has been growing, especially after 9/11 and the U.S.-Afghan War. The region is the closest area to Afghanistan and to fighting against terrorism and the Taliban, which is another dangerous situation for the region. A rise in conflicts and instability would severally retard the nation and state building process and would make it difficult to establish and continue democracy and human rights.
In addition, ethnic conflicts, which lead to refugee problems, would present the most serious security threat. An effective regional security organization has been suggested as a solution to these problems. Although Russia still dominates the structure of bilateral agreements that have been signed by Central Asian states, a variety of security agreements depend on military or non-military cooperations. Two important institutions played a role in regional security during the Cold War era: NATO and the Warsaw Pact. After the end of the Cold War, Warsaw collapsed altogether while NATO remained an institution for Europe and its neighbors.Although its goals changed completely after the Cold War it still has an image problem towards the East. The EU, the second alternative, is also an institution with economic aims, and would not be suitable for the new states in Central Asia. The OSCE’s mission has been the most appropriate one for Central Asian countries, the Baltic States and other former Soviet Republics since they also share the same problems that appeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1991 the OSCE has embraced the argument that the construction of stable democratic systems contributes in the long run to peace and security by reducing the risks of both intrastate and interstate violence. Today, the OSCE has played a role not only in security issues in Central Asia, but it has continued its activities that support ongoing political reforms. Confidence building and civilian oversight of the armed forces, development of a modern police force, border management, promoting a transparent and efficient economic environment, education for sustainable development, implementing international environmental treaties, judicial and legal reforms, human rights and democratization, gender issues, anti-trafficking support and media developments are some of the centers that the OSCE has supported in Central Asia. These activities in the region demonstrate that the OSCE is not only an institution for Europe. Of course, the OSCE has Western-based norms and its impact in Central Asia is limited. However, norm internalization may go beyond cost-benefit calculations and imply that agents accept organizational norms as ‘the right thing to do’.
From 1990 to 1997 the OSCE allocated its resources toward conflict management in Central Asia, and following1997, directed the bulk of its resources to issues of democracy and human rights. Democratic transition in the Central Asian Countries is weaker when compared to the Baltic States and other former Soviet Republics. For example, Bakiyev, the current Kyrgyz President who took office after the Tulip Revolution, has made Kyrgyzstan into a dictatorship rather than strengthening its democracy. In essence, the transition from dictatorship to democracy has changed from (relative) democracy to a dictatorship in Kyrgyzstan.
The OSCE should take more initiative in this region. Although it has a limited impact and Western norms it can focus on transforming the social structure in Central Asia. If we look at its main duties (mentioned above) it can be said that the OSCE is close to achieving these targets. On the other hand, Kazakhstan could help to increase the OSCE’s involvement and impact in Central Asia. Kazakhstan will be the next chairman of the OSCE, and it will be the first former Soviet state to hold this position. However, some academicians claim that Kazakhstan has not yet completed its democratic transition so it is not suitable for chairmanship. This could be true, but there is an additional aspect. Kazakhstan can be a country that will spread the light of democracy and human rights in Central Asia because it has been a country willing to assume this chairmanship. The process should not be harshly criticized or interpreted wrongly; on the contrary, Kazakhstan should be encouraged and supported. It is worth mentioning that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed an organization for Central Asia similar to the OSCE, CICA (the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia). CICA is an Asian version of the OSCE, and Kazakhstan is its charter member, so it is experienced in regards to the OSCE.
In conclusion, the OSCE is not taking more initiatives, such as transforming the social structure, and has not adopted some liberal norms. It may face some problems, but these issues could pass in time. Lastly, the OSCE should take advantage of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in order to gain entrance to Central Asia. In addition, Kazakhstan can apply its OSCE experiences towards its CICA chairmanship and can restructure the organization to improve its effectiveness.
Researcher at USAK Center for Eurasian Studies
 P. Terrence Hopmann, Building Security in Post-Cold War Eurasia: the OSCE and the U.S. Foreign Policy, (USA: The United States Institute of Peace, 1999), p. 19.
Alexander Warkotsch, “International Socialization in Difficult Environments: The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe”, Democratization, Vol. 14, No. 3, June 2007, p. 492.
The OSCE Should Take More Initiatives in Central Asia The OSCE Should Take More Initiatives in Central Asia The OSCE Should Take More Initiatives in Central Asia The OSCE Should Take More Initiatives in Central Asia
Journal of Turkish Weekly (JTW)
Ayten Sok. No:21
Mebusevleri, Tandogan, Ankara, Turkey