Chairpersonship Security Review Conference 2023 Special session: Security situation in the OSCE area 

Chairpersonship Security Review Conference 2023 Special session: Security situation in the OSCE area

As delivered by
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Tressa Steffen Guenov
Vienna, June 28, 2023

Last year’s Annual Security Review Conference (ASRC) marked a necessary departure from established practice – that conference needed to focus on a security threat to this region with global implications:  Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale war against Ukraine.  The same circumstance drives our discussion today.  However, this year Russia sought to disrupt this meeting by blocking consensus on the ASRC, forcing the Chair-in-Office to hold this event as a Chair’s Conference.  This is yet another example of Russia undermining the OSCE’s work.  

Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine has resulted in the most significant security crisis that Europe has faced since the Second World War.  Moscow has demonstrated contempt for its international law obligations and OSCE commitments.  Russia’s actions are an affront to the Helsinki Final Act and the principles our organization was founded on, as well as the UN Charter and the entire rules-based order.

Russia’s actions contravene all ten Helsinki Final Act principles, which established basic norms of behavior to achieve comprehensive security and a rules-based order in the OSCE region.  Beyond its egregious disregard for human life, Moscow has blatantly refused to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighbors and laid bare its willingness to employ the use of force to achieve its goals. 

Russia is clearly the most significant obstacle to peace in Europe.  Russia’s savage attacks on Ukraine and its people are just another demonstration that President Putin has no interest in meaningful diplomacy.  It appears that his goal is to erase Ukraine’s independence.  

The United States continues to stand with the people of Ukraine, whose enduring courage and solidarity inspire the world.  We are partnering with over 50 nations to lead efforts in support of Ukraine’s self-defense against Russia’s aggression.  The United States alone has committed more than $40 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including – most recently – a $500 million military assistance package which includes critical air defense capabilities, additional munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), artillery rounds, anti-tank weapons, armored vehicles, and other equipment essential to strengthening Ukraine’s forces on the battlefield.  We have also stepped up to provide financial and humanitarian assistance—helping Ukrainians maintain access to fundamental services, like healthcare and heating, as they fight for their liberty and sovereignty – not to mention our efforts to highlight abuses by Russian forces on the ground and Moscow’s disregard for international law.

The conduct of Russia’s forces is not consistent with the OSCE’s code of conduct on politico-military aspects of security.  In contrast, the United States, our NATO Allies, Sweden, and other partners are cooperating as envisioned in the OSCE Code of Conduct, acting in solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s contravention of OSCE norms and commitments, and helping Ukraine defend itself and our common values.  

Russia could end this war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine and stopping its brutal attacks against Ukraine’s cities and people.  Until Russia does so, the United States and our Allies and partners will stand united with Ukraine, for as long as it takes.

Russia’s war against Ukraine is one piece in a pattern of Russia’s aggressive actions and unilateralism.  That pattern includes Russia’s war against Georgia in 2008 and its continued occupation of 20 percent of Georgian territory, Russia’s continued basing of troops in Moldova without that country’s consent, Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine and purported “annexation” of Crimea, and Russia’s longstanding disregard for its international commitments and obligations, including in the area of arms control and CSBMs.

Russia’s notification on June 9 of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) is the latest in a series of actions meant to undermine the security architecture in Europe.  This will be discussed further at tomorrow’s CFE Conference of States Parties, but I want to emphasize today that this move is yet another reminder that the Putin regime is not committed to arms control and is willing to turn its back on cooperative approaches to security when it sees fit.  Russia has not fulfilled its obligations under the CFE Treaty since 2007.

Conversely, the United States and our Allies remain united in our commitment to effective conventional arms control as a key element of Euro-Atlantic security, taking into account the prevailing security environment and the security of all Allies.  As National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated, the U.S. “approach to strategic stability… can be boiled down to two main lines of effort.  First, update our deterrence capabilities and plans. And second, advance new arms control and risk reduction measures…. Responsibly enhancing our deterrent capabilities allows us to negotiate arms control from a position of strength and confidence.”  We continue to believe that mutual compliance with arms control agreements and arrangements strengthens the security of the United States, our Allies and partners, Russia, and the world.  Military transparency and risk reduction mechanisms are essential to build a community where there is confidence in the intentions and capabilities of neighbors.  NSA Sullivan noted that new deterrence and arms control measures can help turn this moment of peril into a moment of possibility.  However, arms control and CSBMs are only effective with willing partners, and Russia’s actions increasingly demonstrate that Moscow is not prepared to be a trustworthy partner. 

Russia’s attempts to derail the rules-based international order will fail.  Russia’s attempts to destroy Allied unity will fail.  OSCE’s “acquis” of principles, institutions, and mechanisms – starting with the Helsinki Final Act itself – are stronger and more potent than the Kremlin imagines.  They will stand.  This community will not be swayed from its support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.  By starting this unprovoked war against Ukraine, the Kremlin has achieved exactly the opposite of what it intended.  Russia can end this war at any time; it is in its own interests to do so.