ASRC – Session 3: Conventional Arms Control and Confidence- and Security-Building Measures

Annual Security Review Conference Working Session III: Conventional Arms Control and Confidence- and Security-Building Measures: challenges and opportunities

As prepared for delivery by Deputy Assistant Secretary Bruce I. Turner
Vienna, June 27, 2018
Thanks to the Chair, and also to the keynote speakers for their presentations.

We are all familiar with the difficult challenges facing conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs). I particularly appreciate the Italian Chairmanship’s framing this discussion not only to address the challenges, but also to look to opportunities.

Today’s agenda places this session on conventional arms control clearly in the context of earlier meetings this morning on the OSCE Structured Dialogue and the conflict cycle.

The Structured Dialogue’s broad scope has enabled us to look at security challenges beyond the narrower ambit of conventional arms control and CSBM commitments and obligations. Our sense is – and discussion this morning further demonstrated – that participating States are beginning to take seriously the opportunity provided by Structured Dialogue. The United States believes it is time to focus less on structure and more on dialogue through dedicated and more active discussions on specific topics.

Ambassador Huynen has made clear that one of those future topics will relate to military activities and the risks of conflict and misunderstanding. That’s a particularly useful focus for a Structured Dialogue “deep dive,” and it relates directly to our discussion here today.

We live in a world of heightened perceptions of risk and unpredictability resulting from uncertainties, ambiguities, and lack of transparency about others’ intentions.

All of these serious political and security developments have concrete manifestations in the area of arms control:  One State has, without basis, “suspended” its implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty since 2007, dramatically eroding the level of military transparency in Europe; the Open Skies Treaty is being weakened by treaty violations and a current inability to agree on a quota distribution; and the Vienna Document is being implemented selectively while efforts to improve it are not being embraced by all.

The Ukraine crisis is only the latest manifestation of the increasing distrust that currently characterizes the European security environment, the latest in a pattern of actions that have circumvented, diluted, contradicted, or outright violated existing commitments and principles.

Hence, while we all engage in the Structured Dialogue with the aim of it contributing to a way forward that rebuilds stability and security, I would submit that we should agree this must also occur practically and not only in the abstract.  There are active steps we can take NOW while we continue talking.

What kind of steps?

Full implementation of existing agreed measures is critical to achieving increased stability and security now, and by far the most acceptable and solid basis for potential future action.

Working together to enhance military transparency through the Vienna Document would be another important and concrete step to address the problem of eroded transparency particularly on military activities of concern – such as no-notice, large scale exercises, especially those near borders.

The kinds of improvements already under discussion – for example, lowering thresholds for notification and observation of military activities or modestly increasing the size of evaluation teams and the number of available evaluations and inspections – are not difficult or complicated. But they would benefit us all and could have a positive ripple effect on the atmosphere overall. Agreement on these types of measures could help the Structured Dialogue realize its full promise.

Let us therefore set the goal of reaching consensus by the time of the Ministerial on a limited set of practical improvements to the Vienna Document. This would demonstrate that all at this table are actually prepared to take some steps to begin to rebuild military transparency. That message would also provide an important boost of momentum to the Structured Dialogue process as we enter into the following year. We need to start somewhere. Let us start now.

Thank you.