U.S. Statement for the Forum for Security Cooperation: General Statements

Tanks participate in the Russia-Belarus military drills in Belarus, 5 days before the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr., File)

U.S. Statement for the Forum for Security Cooperation: General Statements

As delivered by Ambassador Michael Carpenter
to the Forum for Security Cooperation, Vienna
February 1, 2023

So much for dialogue with the Russian Federation.  

After spreading so much … what’s the word I am looking for … bull-pookie in this chamber, the Russian representative huffs and puffs out of this hall, demonstrating his cowardice to all of us.  But his words shouldn’t escape scrutiny.  Let’s take a look.   

Three-hundred and sixty-four days ago in this forum, on February 2nd, 2022, the Russian delegate told us, and I quote, “Normal people are extremely puzzled by the level of hysteria whipped up by Western politicians, diplomats and journalists about an alleged ‘imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.”  End quote. 

One year ago, the Russian delegation mocked the evacuation of Western diplomats from Ukraine, saying, quote, “They refer to the supposed build-up of Russian and Belarusian armed forces on Ukraine’s borders.  They are not embarrassed in the least by the fact that our countries [that is, Russia and Belarus] can conduct exercises on our own territories at any place and at any time.  We have had the courtesy to inform our partners here at the Forum recently on a voluntary basis about the inspection of the Union State’s response forces.”   

The Belarusian delegation told us in that very same meeting that these “exercises” tested the “defensive capabilities,” so-called, of its armed forces and, “did not threaten any neighboring countries.”  If this sounds eerily familiar to you, it is because Belarus told us just two weeks ago the very same thing about similar, quote, “defensive exercises.” 

The Russian delegation repeated its false intentions on February 2nd of last year, saying, “Let me remind you that Russia has stated at the highest level that we have no plans to ‘invade’ Ukraine.”  Twenty-two days later, Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine.   

With the benefit of hindsight, the only conclusions we can safely reach are either (a) the Russian delegation here was duped by its own leadership – possible – or (b) they were blatantly lying in an effort to get us all to drop our guards.  In other words, either they don’t know what they are talking about, or they are lying. The Russia delegation concluded last year by reiterating a question from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to his OSCE colleagues, saying, quote, “How do our partners understand their commitment not to strengthen their own security at the expense of the security of other States on the basis of adherence to the principle of the indivisibility of security?”  End quote.  Good question.  We ask in return, “How does this principle of indivisibility of security somehow not extend to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?”  Foreign Minister Lavrov, tell us … I’m curious.  

Mr. Chair,  

Tomorrow, on February 2, in the United States we celebrate “Groundhog Day.”  It’s a peculiar folk holiday immortalized in a popular film about a man who keeps reliving the exact same day over and over again.   

Unfortunately, it feels like we are all reliving Groundhog Day, as we are still here in this forum hearing the same lies and propaganda from Russia’s and Belarus’s delegates as we heard a year ago and as we’ve heard every week since then.  They’d like us all to forget all the falsehoods they fed us just a year ago – for which they have still not apologized or even acknowledged – even while spoon-feeding us new lies (bull-pookie) in almost the very same language and words as they did then.  

We’ve all seen this before.  Russia wages a war of imperialistic conquest against Ukraine with one hand and cynically calls for dialogue with the other.  It’s clear that the Kremlin currently has no interest in meaningful diplomacy … the guy just huffed and puffed out of the room!  If it cannot erase Ukraine’s independence, it will try to force Ukraine into a frozen conflict, lock in its gains, rest and refit its forces, and then, at some point, attack again.    

We know this.  So, knowing all of this, we stand in solidarity with more than 50 countries supporting Ukraine’s defense, and we continue to work with Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities.  The one part of this presentation that he got right is that we’re providing more advanced armor to Ukraine.  And we are.  I’m surprised he didn’t say that the Russian Federation has destroyed X numbers of Abrams tanks, because that would be in keeping with his M.O.  But yeah, he’s right.  We’re going to continue to provide advanced capabilities to Ukraine, so they can defend themselves.  The United States will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, so Ukraine can continue to defend itself and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table when the time comes.  And if Russia and Belarus think that now is the time for, quote, “mutually respectful dialogue free from attempts to forcefully impose unilateral approaches,” end quote, well then, they are clearly continuing to consume their own lies, since Russia’s launching of a unilateral, full-scale invasion of Ukraine is the clearest possible example of forcefully trying to impose a unilateral approach.    

If Russia and Belarus truly want mutually respectful dialogue, they need to begin by showing a little bit of respect – respect, above all, for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and respect for the foundations of the international order.  Russia needs to stop its war of choice and withdraw from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders now.