Published On: Sun, Dec 5th, 2021

OSCE MINISTERIAL: Democracy Being Challenged By Autocracy, Russia Obstructionist

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By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL- Speaking in a press conference on Dec. 2 and on Sunday about his ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Sweden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that Sweden and the U.S. have a strong partnership and said: “We are pleased to have Sweden as a close partner.” Blinken spoke about the need to bolster democratic values globally because as he commented: “Democracy is being threatened by autocracy.” Blinken told the press that he met with Foreign Minister Ann Linde and congratulated Sweden’s new prime minister on her “historic victory.”

Blinken said the OSCE is an “invaluable institution” and that its role has always been to assure “good governance” around the world which includes human rights, gender equality as well as equity for all people. He added that countries that govern with the “consent of their own people” are happier nations than those that do not. He emphasized: ”We are not truly secure unless we come together to accept the sovereignty of all countries.” The secretary of state added that the OSCE is more relevant than ever because as he remarked “it’s no secret that there is democratic backsliding around the world.”

The secretary further highlighted the fact that: “The US and our allies and partners are deeply concerned that Russia has made plans to destabilize Ukraine – we have seen this before in 2014. We will and we must prepare for all contingencies.” Blinken met with the foreign ministers of both Ukraine and Russia to discuss this issue.  He said that the US “remains unwavering” in making sure that Ukraine is autonomous. He pointed out that Russia has a “massive disinformation campaign” about the situation which must be countered. In addition, Blinken said the US will work with its EU allies to impose “severe consequences” on Russia if Russia does not use diplomatic channels to resolve the conflict. He added that: “It’s now on Russia to reverse the current tensions and refrain from further attempts at intimidation.” Blinken commented that the US is “watching the situation very closely and we are in close contacts with our allies about this.”

The secretary of state said that the purpose of his meeting with Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov was to “communicate our concerns and the consequences for Russia,” if it pursues its current path, Blinken said.  He said the exchange between the two was “very direct and very candid.” He added that it’s very likely Biden and Putin will end up speaking to one another on the issue soon.

Another major concern besides Ukraine is Iran’s stonewalling on a nuclear deal, Blinken said. He said that a team was in Vienna on Sunday working on this issue and to find out whether Iran “will engage.” Blinken pointed out that “recent rhetoric doesn’t give us a lot of cause for optimism.” He did present a glimmer of hope when he highlighted that “though the hour is getting late, it is not too late” for Iran to return to the negotiating table on the nuclear issue. Blinken made it clear that Iran “cannot sustain the status quo” of building a nuclear program without engaging with the US and its other allies. Blinken said that Russia shares “our basic perspective” on this. He added that now “it is up to Iran to take steps to return to compliance.”

To that end, Blinken added that he had a “very good conversation” with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and that Israel and the US have the “same strategic objectives” on the issue. Blinken commented: “We both want to make sure Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.” He also added that the US will continue to be in contact with Israel and “other concerned countries.” Blinken said: “We will know in the next day or two whether Iran is serious or not.”

A huge concern Blinken spoke about is that democratic rights and freedoms are at risk everywhere and said that: “Sweden is a remarkable example of acting on democratic rights and freedoms.” He said that the US is partners in this effort not only at the OSCE but in all areas such as sustainability, gender equality and that all those are part of “democratic resilience.” Blinken reiterated: “This is a time when democracies are being challenged from within and without. There is a contest between autocracies and democracies.” He added: “That is a fundamental contest of our time.” The secretary of state concluded by saying: “When democracies are struggling or when they are in disarray, that plays into the hands of the case autocracies are making.” He said this is a major reason why President Biden will be hosting The Summit for Democracy on December 9-10 to make the case for strengthening countries’ “democratic resilience” as well as how all countries can work more effectively to combat this global threat. Blinken added: “This is the start of the conversation and the year of action on democratic resilience.” Blinken said “our goal is to have countries come to the summit next week with “real commitments” on how to promote and safeguard democracy around the world.

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