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The OSCE: Soft Security for a Hard World

Competing Theories for Understanding the OSCE


Roberto Dominguez

This book explores why the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) remains a largely unknown entity as far as the general public are concerned, despite its significant day-to-day activity not only on the diplomatic front, but also via its 16 field operations.
While the main achievement of its predecessor, the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), was to bridge the East-West divide in Europe during the Cold War, the CSCE was transformed into the OSCE in 1995 to respond to the various challenges generated by the emergence of a multipolar world. Ever since, the OSCE has been involved in diplomacy, empowered with instruments of persuasion rather than coercion. Is the OSCE a significant regional organization in dealing with international security? Has the OSCE been able to reinvent itself to face the post-Cold War world? What type of security is the OSCE providing to its member states? This book provides a variety of answers based on different theoretical perspectives and invites the reader to reflect on the nature of soft power within international relations.
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This book is a welcome addition to the international relations literature on international institutions and the role they can play in today’s world, where national sovereignty remains a dominating idea. The editor deserves credit for the structure of its design, which involves the use of different theories to study the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These different theories all have something to say about the subject matter. The mosaic of different theoretical perspectives outlined in this book gives us a fuller understanding of the phenomenon under scrutiny.

Realism, arguably the dominant approach for many decades, has helped us understand why the OSCE did not become a collective defense organization. It put its focus on the role of the more powerful participating states, including Russia and the United States, and their different interests, even after the end of the Cold War. This book, from the theoretical standpoint, goes beyond Realism and offers a rich menu of approaches in order to understand the OSCE from a variety of perspectives.

The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) played an important role at the outset of the 1970s in promoting détente between the East and West, getting the post-war borders in Europe accepted (an interest of the Soviet Union) and human rights acknowledged as international concerns. The end of the Cold War was an important event for the CSCE as well as the European Community (EC) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization...

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