Remarks by Anton Mazur, head of the Russian delegation at the Vienna talks on military security and arms control at the Annual Security Review Conference, Vienna, June 27, 2018
Working session III: “Conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures: challenges and opportunities”
Much was said today about the importance of arms control. We were again urged to expand transparency and upgrade the Vienna document. But let’s look at the background against which such statements are being made.
Long before the current crisis in Russia-NATO relations, some measures taken by the Alliance provoked the emergence of risks and challenges for Russia’s security interests. This is a brief list of these measures: NATO’s advance close to our borders, development of military infrastructure in its new member countries, engagement in new forms of military activities, creation of the European segment of the US global missile defence system, and participation of non-nuclear countries in nuclear exercises under NATO’s aegis. All of this has seriously undermined our trust.
NATO’s decisions made in the context of the worsening Ukrainian crisis have further aggravated the situation. NATO rapidly turned to using the patterns of “comprehensive deterrence” that have essentially amounted to the intimidation of our country. Military exercises in Eastern and Central European countries have become more frequent and large-scale (sometimes exercises involving 40,000-50,000 troops take place in one region simultaneously or consecutively). Command centres, and depots of arms and military equipment have been established, and foreign troops began to be deployed on an actually permanent basis (periodic rotations do not make any difference in this respect). The scale of such activities continues to grow and is calling into question the viability of the agreements sealed in the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act.
The leaders of the Alliance have broken off the professional military dialogue. In parallel, an unprecedented campaign on discrediting the daily activities of the Russian armed forces has been launched. A recent example is Western hysteria over the West-2017 Russia-Belarus exercises.
To sum up, the main reason for the deterioration of European security is not the lack of instruments of confidence- and security-building measures but rather NATO’s move to confrontation. It now declares that the presence of foreign troops near our borders is the only security guarantee. We consider the discourse that these deployments are “strictly defensive in character” and “limited in scale” to be questionable. We cannot ignore how members of this “defensive” bloc have repeatedly used armed force to the detriment of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of certain states in Europe (Yugoslavia) and beyond (Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc). We also remember how concerned the United States was when we had our training brigade in Cuba.
Now with regard to confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs), the Alliance’s current policy and military practice are not compatible with the proposals to improve or renovate them. Current complaints about the alleged “inadequacy” of existing measures miss the mark. Russia is already the state inspected by the OSCE the most.
At the same time, the CSBM tools have been badly compromised by the Alliance itself. For example, after they were used in 2014, Western countries were unable to identify any unusual military activity and destabilising concentration of forces in areas adjacent to Ukraine. However, despite this, groundless accusations against us continued.
We noted the contemptuous attitude on the part of the NATO members and their “like-minded” supporters to their obligations in the sphere of CSBMs. For example, under a far-fetched pretext unrelated to the Open Skies Treaty, Georgia not only closed its sky for observation flights with the participation of Russia, but also blocked the possibility of holding any open skies missions. In turn, Ukraine has been conducting military activities on its territory for four years now with the participation of up to 90,000 people and massive amounts of equipment, without providing the notifications required by the Vienna document and failing to invite observers to the area. The transparency measures advertised by Kiev cannot replace its implementation.
In this way, NATO countries themselves and their closest partners have devalued the significance of the CSBM tools many times over. This begs the question: Why should they be modernised at all then?
Sometimes we hear that additional CSBMs are allegedly needed to prevent accidental run-ins between the forces of Russia and NATO countries. However, to do so, withdrawing the Alliance’s troops and equipment away from our borders would be enough.
To create proper conditions for discussing the CSBMs, the Alliance must cease building up its activity on the eastern flank, and then scale it down. Talks on military security issues require a favourable and predictable environment. As such, the commitment of all participating States to refrain from any steps to change the levels, configurations and deployments of forces was the key pre-requisite for launching and negotiating the adaptation of the CFE Treaty (1996-1999).
Today, NATO countries are unwilling to limit their freedom of action, or to discuss conventional arms control in Europe. Without this, it is impossible to modernise the 2011 Vienna document.
Russia is still committed to faithfully complying with its obligations in the sphere of building confidence and security. In addition, we welcome the practice of providing voluntary information about exercises and surprise inspections and daily activities of the armed forces. Russia’s Defence Ministry is using a variety of channels to notify its partners about surprise inspections and exercises. They are covered in detail on the Defence Ministry’s online resources, as well as at numerous specialised briefings, including with the participation of NATO countries’ military attaches. We will continue to inform our partners about exercises on our territory below the thresholds of notifiable military activities, and also invite military attachés of foreign states to attend them as observers.
With regard to upgrading the 2011 Vienna document, this issue may be reviewed after restoring confidence and reducing tensions.
We believe that in the context of the Europe-wide political process, as the situation de-escalates and military contacts are expanded, it would be possible to discuss measures to control conventional arms in Europe.
We call upon our partners to unconditionally fulfill their obligations and to create a favourable atmosphere for further joint work here in Vienna. We believe they have something to think about and decide on their priorities. Is it to contain Russia or maintain a dialogue with it, including on conventional arms control in Europe and CSBMs? Sitting on two chairs is not an option here.
Thank you, Mr Moderator.