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Strategic Culture of the OSCE and Its Reflection in the Effort to De-escalate and Resolve the Conflict in Ukraine

The OSCE has until now been the only security organization which directly participated in the effort to de-escalate the war in Eastern Ukraine. As cultural approaches to strategic studies can be also applied to international organizations, this study argues that the OSCE was involved in the attempt to stabilize and resolve the situation partly due to its specific strategic culture. We identify the specific features of the strategic culture of the OSCE as an example of regional security governance between ‘non-allies’ based on the discoursive analysis of OSCE documents and demonstrate how these identified features were reflected in the activities of the OSCE in the conflict in Ukraine.

Strategic Culture of the OSCE and Its Reflection in the
(L-R) Former Ukrainian President Kuchma, PM of the self-proclaimed ‘Peoples Republic of Donetsk’ Zakharchenko, OSCE envoy Tagliavini, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Zurabov, and the rebel leader of ‘Peoples Republic of Lugansk’ Plotnitsky make an official

Introduction1

The study of the strategic culture within international security enjoyed a certain revival after the end of the Cold War. Cultural approaches to strategic studies have nevertheless been predominantly connected with states as security actors. Discussion, however, has also started about the possibility of applying strategic culture to international security organizations since states are able to construct a strategic culture within an organization, and such strategic culture is subsequently reflected in the activities of such organizations. Security organizations are of intergovernmental character, and decisions adopted by these organizations and actions taken by them depend on their members. Therefore, we can assume that if organizations have different members, structures and capacities, they also have different strategic cultures.2 Cultures are therefore defined based on different ideas, perceptions and beliefs, and thus are socially constructed by collective understanding and interpretation about the world.3 The study of strategic culture of these organizations then plays a key role in the discussion about their action readiness and effectiveness.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) shows specific features of strategic culture resulting from the fact that the roots of this organization lie in the ability of the organization to initiate dialogue and implement cooperation in the security area at the regional level among actors which perceive each other as threats, and which prefer deterrence and non-cooperative approaches. This feature is becoming once again a typical feature of the OSCE at the beginning of the 21st century: this may be the reason why it is called by some ‘perhaps the world’s least-known major security organization.’4

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