Development of the Structured Dialogue

Flags of the OSCE participating States outside the Hofburg Congress Center in Vienna, Austria (USOSCE/Colin Peters)

Development of the Structured Dialogue

Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Kate M. Byrnes
to the Joint Meeting of the Forum for Security Cooperation
and the Permanent Council, Vienna
July 5, 2017

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Structured Dialogue is an opportunity to use the OSCE for meaningful collaborative work on current security issues. This is an organization where we should discuss these hard issues in specific terms, seek to dispel misunderstandings where possible through expert exchanges, and identify potential ways ahead. It is an opportunity we should seize together.

The Structured Dialogue has gotten off to a promising start with three meetings to date, including two capital-reinforced, plus the recent Annual Security Review Conference. At the opening session of the Informal Working Group (IWG) on April 7, discussions among participating States identified a range of converging and diverging perceptions of threat. They include the following: the conflict in and around Ukraine and the protracted conflicts; lack of respect for a rules-based international order; failure to fulfill arms control agreements, migration, instability in North Africa and the Middle East; terrorism, malicious cyber activity; and the risk of accidental military confrontation. In addition, the May 2017 Intercessional Military Doctrine Seminar and June 2017 Force Posture IWG demonstrated the importance of further exploration of divergent threat perceptions and the need to address a lack of military transparency and military exercises in the OSCE space.

In particular, we would underscore that the basic breakdown of the rules-based order and the disregard for basic principles—led by actions of primarily one participating State—is the core driver of the political-military situation we face today, including the increased distrust and lack of confidence that dominate the current European security environment. Consequently, the issue of military exercises and transparency, like other issues raised in the Structured Dialogue, must first and foremost be viewed in this context.

Throughout our discussions, many delegations stressed the need for an inclusive, patient process without preconditions, preconceived conclusions, artificial deadlines, or outside agendas that do not encompass all participating States. Many interventions underscored that many issues raised in earlier meetings would benefit from more in-depth discussion among participating States in Vienna in the future, as well as in upcoming capital-reinforced meetings. As one delegation noted, we have “not scratched the surface” on many topics. We support all of these parameters and this approach.

In particular, many participating States from different perspectives identified in past IWG meetings large-scale military exercises/activities, as well as related concerns about a lack of transparency, as a major contributor to their national threat perceptions. Consequently, after the summer recess, in addition to discussions about other threat perceptions and the September meeting on issues related to the violation of principles, we all would benefit from an in-depth look at current and upcoming military exercises and related activities to consider how to reduce the risk of misunderstanding and escalation, especially from so-called “snap exercises.”

At the same time, examining existing tools and their modernization, such as the Vienna Document, would aid in this effort, especially as many participating States noted modernizing the Vienna Document and improving its implementation during the Structured Dialogue. The briefing of upcoming exercises in the FSC is also an obvious step all partners should implement as part of this effort.

However, as we have stated, military exercises and related transparency issues cannot be separated from the basic breakdown of the rules-based order, led by the actions of primarily one participating State. The answer to these more fundamental core problems cannot be limited to steps that address military exercises and transparency, but also requires changes in the behavior of States that violate international norms. We need a discussion on violations of the rules-based international order as well.

Following these discussions, additional Structured Dialogue meetings going forward could provide opportunities for in-depth discussions on other threat perceptions raised by participating States, including terrorism and violent extremism, the threat and use of force against neighbors and resulting conflicts – including through hybrid tactics, proliferation of nuclear and other material, malicious use of cyber capabilities and information/messaging, and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms – including in the context of migration and refugee issues.

Looking ahead to the Informal Ministerial, we would welcome a brief, non-prescriptive report from the Chair that notes the successful initiation of the Structured Dialogue and issues raised to date, including on threat perceptions, force posture and doctrine. It should also highlight the importance of continuing those discussions and themes in more depth in the fall, as the Ministerial Decision states, in order “to foster greater understanding.”

Additionally, looking ahead towards fall 2017 and beyond, we believe it would be useful for Vienna delegations to meet later in the year to discuss core issues raised by participating States during reinforced meetings. The United States stands ready to contribute to this process, which has to be a genuine dialogue owned by participating States, not merely an academic exercise. We need to flesh out concerns already raised as well as possible ways ahead to support both new reinforced meetings and the Structured Dialogue process in its entirety, especially as we move into 2018 and the Italian OSCE Chairmanship.

I request that this statement be included in the Journal of the Day.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.