United States Mission to the OSCE
Meeting Requested by Ukraine under Vienna Document Chapter III Regarding Unusual Russian Military Activity
April, 10, 2021
Thank you Madame Chair,
The United States welcomes the decision by Ukraine to request this meeting regarding the Russian military activities near Ukraine’s border and in occupied Crimea. We take note of Russia’s notification on April 9 that it “does not engage in any significant military activity that is required to be reported under the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence and Security Building Measures.” We also note Russia’s clear statement that “all activities carried out in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and related movement of military units in the zone of application of CSBMs are carried out within the framework of combat training and do not require notification.”
While this response from Russia is duly noted, the United States had hoped to use this meeting to clarify the situation on the ground regarding the location, dates, and purpose of the military activity and information on the forces involved as Ukraine had requested under Vienna Document Chapter III. Russia’s decision to not attend this meeting will make that impossible. This is precisely the type of detailed discussion that would make our meeting fruitful.
We are concerned by Russia’s refusal to provide sufficient information about these unusual military activities under Chapter III. Russia’s uninformative response to Ukraine’s questions – and its non-transparent activities on the ground – are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Vienna Document, which was adopted by consensus by all 57 members of the OSCE, including Russia, to serve as a lasting source of cooperation and military transparency. Paragraph 16.1.3 states that the reply to a request for an explanation of unusual military activities “will give answers to questions raised, as well as any other relevant information in order to explain the activity in question and dispel the concern.” Russia’s response did not answer the questions raised in Ukraine’s request.
Ukraine’s concern regarding Russian military activities and intentions are very real. In 2014, Russia similarly failed to provide detailed information about its unusual military activities on Ukraine’s border in response to Ukraine’s Vienna Document paragraph 16 request and similarly refused to attend meetings to clarify Ukraine’s concerns. It swiftly became clear in 2014 that Ukraine’s concerns were well founded.
We are concerned that Russia is refusing to fulfill the commitments it assumed under the Vienna Document 2011 and engage in dialogue to provide reassurance to its neighbor Ukraine, and all participating States. This is the moment for Russia to dispel the concerns of its neighbors and OSCE partners regarding the character of its current military activities near Ukraine’s border. The absence of transparency suggests this is not a routine nor previously scheduled military exercise.
These ongoing provocative Russian military actions reduce confidence and increase tension and raise questions about intentions, particularly given the history of events since 2014.
Thank you Madame Chair.