The Little-Known International Charter At The Center of Ukraine War and China’s Future Defense

Jacqueline Luqman

The U.S. talks about “rule based order” because international law is not on its side. The 1999 OSCE Charter explains why the Biden administration would rather make up a new phrase out of whole cloth than live up to agreements it signed.

In 1999, the United States and the 56 other participating states of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) signed a charter in Instanbul that is another intentionally ignored key to understanding the war in Ukraine.

The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization . It claims to engage in political dialogue – that is, a forum for political dialogue on a wide range of security issues. There are 57 OSCE member states that cover three continents – North America, Europe and Asia. The policies the OSCE deliberates over include security issues such as arms control, terrorism, good governance, energy security, human trafficking, democratization, media freedom, and the rights of national minorities that affect more than a billion people. This is what they say they do, anyway.

But the 1999 Instanbul Charter signed by all the member states says that countries should be free to choose their own security arrangements and alliances but specifies that, in doing so, countries “will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other states.”

This charter was raised as the rationale for Russia mobilizing troops inside its border in response to US and it western allies expanding NATO eastward since the Cold War and refusing to rule out granting membership to Ukraine. NATO says it is a defensive alliance that is open to new members, but can we be honest – because we always are – and point out that Russia was not doing anything in Ukraine or anywhere else to put NATO on the defensive. This issue of the charter being violated was raised by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in February 2022 when he had a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

“Our western colleagues are simply trying not even to ignore but to consign to oblivion this key principle of international law agreed in the Euro-Atlantic space,” Lavrov said at the time.

“We will insist on an honest conversation and an honest explanation of why the West doesn’t want to fulfill its obligations or wants to meet them only selectively to its own advantage.”

Lavrov had written to the United States, Canada, and a number of governments on January 28, 2022, to ask them urgently to explain how they intended to fulfill this commitment to the principle of “indivisible security” that they all agreed to in the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Charter. What Russia received, instead of answers to its questions or discussions about the West holding up its end of the charter agreement, were US and NATO demands that Russia pull back troops from inside its own borders.

This happened in February 2022, right around the same time that Biden started claiming that Russia was going to invade Ukraine “ANY DAY NOW!!!” The whole time, however, Russia was trying to get the US to adhere to the OSCE charter. But it seems that the US was really just pushing for this war.

So when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a “global security initiative” that upholds the principle of “indivisible security,” it’s odd that Reuters – the same outlet that reported on Russia’s Lavrov trying to get the US to adhere to the OSCE charter in February – characterized the idea of indivisible security as some mysterious thing that Xi just came up with. In fact, it is literally what the 1999 OSCE charter is based on!

Reuters goes on to inexplicably say that Xi’s proposal is one also endorsed by Russia but said that Xi gave no details of how it would be implemented. Well, not only is the concept of “indivisible security” endorsed by Russia, it was an agreement signed by 57 member countries of the OSCE in 1999.

And Xi doesn’t have to give details on how the proposal would be implemented because those details already exist in the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Charter. China is not a member state of the OSCE, but is raising the issue of the organization’s violation of its own charter to not only point out the hypocrisy of the US/EU/NATO in this horror they created in Ukraine, but also to make its  case for defending itself against further US imperialist aggression in Taiwan.

Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, is quoted by Reuters saying, “If China deems actions by U.S. and its allies on Taiwan or the South China Sea as disregarding its security concerns, it could evoke the concept of ‘indivisible security’ to claim the moral high ground in retaliation.” And Wang Jiangyu, a law professor at the City University of Hong Kong, said that by evoking the concept of “indivisible security,” which had originated from Europe, China could hope to make its actions in defense of its core interests appear more legitimate to other countries.

Security for Europe but not for Russia or China? Xi Jingping is saying that this is not how it should work. And it should not. As Lavrov tried to point out but was completely dismissed by Antony Blinken, no country should have its security concerns violated by another country claiming defense while actually building up its own security. The 1999 OSCE Istanbul Charter says that.

But the way the Reuters article reads, China has concocted some strange thing no one has ever heard of, that they’re being tight-lipped and secretive about, even though Xi is literally using language and concepts already established by the OSCE and agreed to by the US and its Western allies. But the US will ignore China’s invocation of the indivisible security model of the OSCE, and claim it’s a sneaky Chinese provocation.

Just like they did with Russia regarding Ukraine.

Jacqueline Luqman is co-host of By Any Means Necessary on Radio Sputnik. She is also a contributor to The Real News Network, Editor-In-Chief of the social media program Luqman Nation, and a contributor to Black Power Media. She has more than 20 years of activism in Washington, DC focusing on participating in and supporting community-level issues as well as regional and national issues that impact working-class, poor, and oppressed people in the US and abroad. She is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace, Pan-African Community Action, is a supporter of several other grassroots radical Black-focused and led organizations, and is an active member of the Board of Social Action in Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, a progressive church in Washington, DC.