Inter-American problems and regional policy
Statement by Anton Mazur, Head of the Russian Delegation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control, at a joint session of OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation and OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, November 29, 2017
First, we would like to thank you for convening today's session and, of course, to thank distinguished Ambassador Eberhard Pohl for the skilful organisation and leadership of the Informal Working Group on Structured Dialogue, as well as for his report summarising its work in 2017.
The Structured Dialogue is inseparable from the pan-European political process. It can evolve only on the basis of equality and mutual consideration of interests. It must serve to de-escalate the situation, restore trust and help advance the goal, set at the top level, of building a community of equal and indivisible security. A joint mutually respectful discussion, without bellicose rhetoric or an exchange of accusations, should lead us to a general idea and to an understanding of the key elements of a new European security model, beneficial to all. This would create the basis for moving towards a discussion of practical arrangements.
A constructive and depoliticised discussion is especially needed in the current complicated situation and, in this sense, the progress made within the framework of the Structured Dialogue gives some hope. We note the positive dynamics in the remarks of European experts (primarily, the military), their gradual departure from unfounded accusations against Russia, and their willingness to pursue constructive interaction. It is important to avoid attempts to return to fruitless talk about who broke the rules and obligations and when, and instead to consolidate the positive trend, focusing on the discussion on the formation of constructive mutual understanding in the sphere of “hard security.”
In this context, the process of joint analysis of trends in the armed forces and military activities, which began recently, may also be useful. An unbiased systematic review of changes in the military-political situation on the continent, including the entire range of factors affecting it, in historical retrospect, (beginning in the 1990s), based on official sources, could bring about a better understanding of the current balance of forces on the continent and prospects for maintaining general security in the foreseeable future. We are ready to continue this and to discuss specific issues in the military activities of the participating states and military-political alliances in Europe, and the mutual concerns of individual countries. Of course, this can be done with the understanding that the purpose of this joint work is not talk for the sake of talking, or transparency for the sake of transparency, but the promotion of understanding for a subsequent transition to deliberating concrete steps towards reducing military and political tensions in the OSCE space and, in particular, in the contact zone of the armed forces of Russia and NATO countries (we cannot afford to ignore the existence of this military-political alliance). There have been examples of such dialogue throughout history and, over time, this led to the development of practical agreements on measures of restraint and trust in the military-technical sphere. Of course, the discussion of this issue will depend on developments regarding the deployment by NATO countries of forward-based forces near Russian borders.
I would also like to emphasise that what we currently lack is precisely a dialogue between military specialists in various formats and this has arisen as a result of the decision by NATO countries to suspend practical military cooperation with Russia. If the aim of one of these countries was to "punish" Russia, this ploy failed, and the real outcome has been the loss of the channels of communication, which could be used to discuss issues of mutual concern. We, in turn, did not freeze anything and repeatedly confirmed our openness to a dialogue. So it's up to our partners now.
Russia's attitude to continued work within the Structured Dialogue will largely depend on whether NATO countries are willing to consolidate de-escalation of the situation, to reduce military confrontation, to restore relations in the military sphere, and to make concrete steps in this area priority goals. Such steps would include: the cessation of military activities and the deployment of forces and infrastructure near Russia’s borders, the refusal to consolidate a foreign presence in the Baltic region and Eastern Europe, a return to original frontiers, at least to where NATO forces were at the beginning of 2014. Once this is achieved, it would then be possible to move on to planning joint work regarding conventional arms control in Europe and building trust and security.
In closing, I would like to make a few wishes for the future. We should avoid walking in circles or duplicating discussions which are traditionally held at the OSCE Permanent Council and the Forum. We must try to move forward, shifting from the "who is to blame" question to the "what to do" question and concentrating on forming constructive common understandings. In this context, de-escalating the situation and reducing military confrontation should become a priority topic for our further discussions.
Thank you, esteemed co-chairs, and I would like this statement to be attached to the minutes of today's meeting.