ASRC – Special Meeting of the Structured Dialogue

Annual Security Review Conference: Special Meeting of the Structured Dialogue

As delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathy Kavalec
Vienna, June 27, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to begin by acknowledging the leadership of Ambassador Huynen, who has worked tirelessly to advance the Structured Dialogue this year. We thank him for the ideas on the way forward for the Structured Dialogue, which we will study carefully. We welcome the inclusion of this session at the Annual Security Review Conference.

The chair’s inclusion of a keynote address by Dr. Winkler on military incidents offers a concrete illustration of what happens when basic norms of international conduct are not observed. We look forward to the September discussion on military transparency and incidents. Today, I will offer only a few points.

There is a vast difference between local and unintentional incidents, such as when a soldier accidentally crosses an unmarked woodland boundary, versus intentionally provocative actions that occur as a matter of state policy, such as when the announcement of a live munitions drill forces neighbors to shut down commercial airspace, or when a major military activity is not notified in advance to neighbors.

We thought we were past that. We thought that our negotiators at Helsinki and Stockholm had figured this out 50 years ago. Large military exercises that surprise neighbors can lead to misunderstanding tension, and even conflict.

When we consider the range of threats to European Security, some of the most acute relate to active and protracted conflicts. For the countries most affected, these conflicts are the central fact in their national security assessments. I’m speaking, of course, not only of the hot conflict in Ukraine, but also the situations in Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

The Euro-Atlantic community today is at a crossroads. Many OSCE members have expressed an increasing sense that their national security, their territorial sovereignty, and even their national institutions are under threat as a result of the actions or intentions of their neighbors. This is not only the result of the conflicts and sources of tension that I have already mentioned, it is also the result of the use of hybrid tactics: sophisticated, well-financed, sometimes overt, sometimes insidious steps on a variety of fronts, against our institutions and societies.

In order to reduce tensions and rebuild trust, we need to rebuild military transparency, and to begin to restore confidence in each other’s intentions. One of the best ways to enhance military is to work together to update the Vienna Document to more accurately reflect today’s security environment. We encourage all stakeholders to constructively engage in the negotiations on modernizing the Vienna Document, so that results can be achieved by the Milan ministerial. I am sure that will be further discussed this afternoon.

But how do we rebuild trust? How do we restore confidence in the basic political intentions of all members of this community? We need to abide by our commitments. Yesterday, the United States and many others called on Russia to fulfill its Minsk commitments. Today I have underscored the need to rebuild military transparency and abide by existing arms control and confidence and security-building instruments. But the challenge is larger than that. Actions against neighbors, such as unsafe and unprofessional approaches between aircraft, or large-scale no-notice exercises that are directed at heightening the sense of risk and unpredictability, will prevent us from building the security community we need in order to face the hard issues ahead. We need to shine a light on hybrid threats, and decide that use of these intentionally destabilizing methods against independent, sovereign actors is unacceptable.

We hope that this fall’s Structured Dialogue on military risks and incidents will allow an opportunity for genuine dialogue, both in the plenary and in meetings at the level of delegations, to discuss issues of concern, dispel misperceptions, identify the issues, and work toward solutions. We have the structure; now we need the opportunity for actual conversation. It is important that the Structured Dialogue process continue without preconditions or preconceived conclusions and with no artificial deadlines. We welcome the opportunity to shape this dialogue in a way that brings about more frank and focused discussions, with the aim of discovering new ways ahead.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.