The Situation in and around Ukraine, including the Recent Non-Compliance with OSCE Commitments
As delivered by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
February 22, 2022
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms President Putin’s announcement yesterday that Russia recognizes the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” as quote, “independent,” unquote.
This decision amounts to a complete repudiation of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, directly contradicts Russia’s claims that it is committed to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – as well as the UN Charter.
Russia has since announced that Russian troops will now enter these regions of Ukraine. Moscow calls these troops “peacekeepers,” but we all know this is a lie.
Make no mistake: Yesterday’s actions are the beginning of the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine. They are utterly unprovoked and unjustified. And as we have promised, Russia will face severe, coordinated costs from the United States and our Allies and partners as a result.
Yesterday in this Council, Russian Ambassador Lukashevich blasted Ukraine for all the steps that it has allegedly failed to take under the Minsk agreements.
I remind this Council and the Ambassador that Russia never fulfilled a single, solitary one of its obligations under the Minsk agreements. Russia has not supported a ceasefire. Russia has not removed its heavy weapons from proscribed zones. Russia has not granted unfettered access for SMM monitors.
The ink was barely dry on the Minsk agreements before Moscow began to pretend that its guns, its artillery systems, and its anti-aircraft missiles had never been inside Ukraine at all. They attempted to gaslight the world into believing it was all a mirage, and that Russia had never been a party to this conflict.
Now Russia has showed the world its true intentions by once again violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and its internationally recognized borders.
We are on the precipice of a dark and dangerous era. Over the last three decades, Russia has repeatedly and consistently pledged to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the Budapest Memorandum in fact require nothing less. Russia’s decision yesterday is a flagrant violation of international law and norms, and of international agreements to which Russia has long been a party.
History tells us that we must stand firm and united against such an audacious attempt to upend the basic principles of the rules-based international order.
President Putin argued yesterday that Russia has a rightful claim to all the territories of the former Russian Empire as it existed over 100 years ago. We cannot dismiss this as nationalistic hyperbole. He is talking about many of the participating States seated around this table.
The Russian Federation apparently wants to take the world back to the age of empires, when guns and steel determined the rules of the international order—not citizens freely exercising their democratic rights to choose their own leaders, their own alliances, and their own futures.
That is a threat not only to European security, but to the security of people everywhere in the world.
As we have said from the beginning of this crisis, the United States will respond swiftly and decisively to these actions, and to further Russian aggression against Ukraine. That response is already underway.
Yesterday, President Biden signed an Executive Order that will prohibit all new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” regions of Ukraine.
In the coming hours, the United States will announce significant additional sanctions and other measures that will impose severe costs and consequences on the Russian Federation. We expect our Allies and partners will take additional, coordinated steps as well to respond to Russia’s unprovoked and unacceptable aggression against Ukraine.
Colleagues, President Putin is testing our international system, he is testing our resolve. He wants to demonstrate that through force, he can make a farce of the international order.
In this moment, no one, not one of us, can stand on the sidelines. We must remain united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity—and, indeed, of the right of all sovereign nations to choose their own paths, free from the threat of coercion, subversion, or invasion.
The United States continues to believe that the diplomatic path is the only way for responsible nations—for great powers—to resolve their legitimate differences. That path is still available to Russia. It is still available to us all. But we can only make progress in the context of de-escalation, not invasion. Of peace, not war.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.