NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
Statement by Anton Mazur, Head of the Russian Delegation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control, at the session of the annual OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, Vienna, June 29, 2016
Working session II: “Conventional Arms Control and CSBMs: Problems and Prospects”
Esteemed Mr Moderator,
I’d like to thank the main speakers for their statements that suggest two conclusions. On the one hand, everyone agrees that recently the level of European security has substantially deteriorated and risks linked with military activities have grown. On the other hand, it is becoming clear that Russia and the NATO member-countries have opposing views on the causes of this degradation and on ways of reducing the threat.
Much was said today about the importance of arms control. We were again urged to enhance transparency and upgrade the Vienna document. However, let’s look at the backdrop against which these statements are being made.
Despite our warnings about NATO’s eastward expansion being counterproductive and dangerous, the borders of this massive military bloc have reached Russian borders. There has been consistent development of military infrastructure on the territory of new NATO members. New forms of military activities, including the air patrol mission and multi-nation drills, began to be conducted on the ground, in the air and at sea. The deployment of NATO’s missile defence systems, a segment of US global missile defence, entered a practical stage. Non-nuclear countries, including East European states, are taking part in nuclear arms exercises under the aegis of NATO. The alliance is planning for confrontational scenarios in the Baltic and Black Sea basins as well.
Thus, even before the current crisis in Russia-NATO relations, NATO’s measures provoked risks and challenged Russia’s security interests. Such measures seriously undermined trust.
The decisions taken by NATO against the backdrop of the deepening crisis in Ukraine made a bad situation worse. The alliance rapidly switched to comprehensive “deterrence” in its policy and military planning, which were aimed at intimidating Russia. NATO began to conduct military exercises more frequently and on a larger scale in Eastern and Central European countries (this month almost 50,000 NATO servicemen simultaneously conducted military activities there). NATO also established command centres and arms depots in these countries and even started deploying foreign troops on a practically permanent basis (periodic “rotations” do not change the routine). Moreover, NATO is stepping up these activities (we believe this issue will be discussed at the NATO summit in Warsaw), which is jeopardising the validity of the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act.
We are being told these measures are “strictly defensive”. However, we remember that the “defensive” NATO bloc and its individual members have repeatedly used armed force under far-fetched pretexts and in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states in Europe (Yugoslavia) and beyond (Iraq, Syria and Libya).
We are also being told that these measures are not so large in scale and we shouldn’t worry. However, we remember how much the United States was worried when our training brigade stayed in Cuba.
Instead of reducing tensions and invigorating professional military dialogue the NATO leaders have disrupted it. Some senior officials from the Defence Ministry were even subjected to illegal personal sanctions. This did not happen even during the Cold War.
An unprecedented campaign to discredit the lawful daily activities of the Russian armed forces was launched at the same time. Clear fabrications about searches for non-existent submarines or the mythical danger Russian flights posed to Europe’s civil aviation are being spread.
To sum up, the main reason for the deterioration of European security lies not in the shortage of CSBMs but in NATO’s decision to change its policy and military planning to plan for confrontational scenarios in which the presence of foreign troops on our borders is proclaimed the only guarantee of security.
It is worth remembering the words of the most famous Georgian of the 20th century, spoken 82 years ago: “…Pacifism is dragging out a miserable existence, while the chatter about disarmament is being replaced with ‘businesslike’ talk about armament and additional armament.” Regrettably, today these words are becoming relevant again.
With regard to confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs), we have on many occasions indicated that NATO’s current policies, and now its practical steps as well, are at odds with the proposals to improve CSBMs. In today's circumstances, we consider inappropriate the complaints about the alleged "inadequacy" of existing measures. As you are aware, Russia is already monitored by the OSCE more than any other state: every year more than thirty flights are made over our territory under the Treaty on Open Skies; we accept all inspections and evaluation visits under the Vienna Document 2011, which, this year alone, covered an area of over 40,000 sq km, which is comparable to territory of an average European country. To this, we could add 30 to 40 inspections under the adapted CFE Treaty, but its fate, alas, is sad, and "credit" for that goes to NATO countries. They preferred to sacrifice it in order to achieve their goals in the post-Soviet space.
Russia is actively using and improving the use of additional voluntary transparency measures that go beyond its international commitments. So, spot checks in the Russian Armed Forces, which are looked at warily by some of our partners, are covered extensively on the Russian Defence Ministry’s website, and also at specialised briefings, including with the participation of military attaches from NATO countries. In total, our military specialists have held over 50 such briefings. Therefore, the recent statement by the head of the German military department on this issue came as a surprise, to put it mildly, for the Russian Defence Ministry, because for over two years now it has been using different channels to notify its European partners about all spot inspections and military exercises.
The CSBM tools have been severely compromised by the alliance itself. As is known, after these measures had been used in the areas adjacent to Ukraine (the inspections under the Vienna Document 2011 and observation flights under the Treaty on Open Skies), Western countries failed to identify any unusual military activities or destabilising concentration of forces (we have proved this using specific examples of observation flights under the Treaty on Open Skies, and no one could prove us wrong by showing photographs to the contrary). However, the "perception" (or, rather, deep-rooted phobia) of Western politicians turned out to be more important than the reality, which was at odds with such perception, and declamatory political statements by NATO continued unabated.
We have identified ever-increasing number of breaches by the members of the alliance of their obligations in the sphere of CSBMs. That includes Turkey's refusal to accept an inspection flight under the Treaty on Open Skies over southeastern Turkey, and the United States and Canada causing obstacles for the Russian aircraft flying an Open Skies mission with digital surveillance equipment. A more recent example, we are disappointed to note that the Russian inspection mission in Poland during the Anaconda 2016 exercise was marred by limited and scarce information provided by the Polish side. The number of forces observed in the specified area made it impossible for our inspection team to verify the scale of military activities declared by Poland. Moreover, the inspectors noted with regret the lack of cooperation and transparency on the part of the escort team, and the atmosphere in which the Polish side hosted the inspectors was not conducive to building confidence.
Certain alliance "supporters" are negligent with regard to their commitments. Thus, Georgia closed its skies to observation flights with the participation of Russia under a far-fetched pretext that is irrelevant to the Treaty on Open Skies. For two years now, Ukraine has engaged in military activities in its territory with the participation of up to 90,000 troops and vast numbers of military equipment without providing required notifications under the Vienna Document or inviting observers to that area. The "transparency measures" touted by Kiev were, in fact, irrelevant to the provisions of the Vienna Document, and cannot replace proper compliance with this document.
Thus, what we have is NATO countries and their immediate partners repeatedly devaluing the importance of the CSBMs. This begs a legitimate question: why upgrade them at all?
Sometimes, we hear that additional CSBMs are allegedly needed to prevent accidental collisions between Russian and NATO forces. However, there is a much more straightforward way to achieve this goal, which is to move NATO troops and equipment further away from our borders.
Notably, in order to create proper conditions for discussing the CSBMs, the alliance should stop ratcheting up its activities on the eastern flank, and then stop them altogether. Our partners are well aware that talks on military security call for a favourable and predictable environment. Thus, the obligation of all the states that are party to the CFE Treaty to refrain from any steps to change the level, configuration or deployment of forces was a key pre-condition for starting and conducting negotiations on adapting the CFE Treaty (1996-1999).
Today, however, NATO countries not only are unwilling to limit themselves in their moves but also to discuss conventional armed forces control in Europe (CFE). Given the close relationship between the CFE and pan-European CBM regime, seriously engaging in the thorough modernisation of the 2011 Vienna Document in such circumstances is simply impossible.
We often hear our partners talk about a "commitment" to substantially modernise the 2011 Vienna Document this year. We would therefore like to remind everyone that its paragraph 152 provides only for a special meeting of the Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC), and says nothing about its preferred outcome.
As for the technical reissue of the Vienna Document, which entails incorporating the decisions previously adopted by the FSC, in view of their small number, we do not see great practical value in this. The above FSC decisions have entered into force without it and have taken effect on the date of their adoption. A new Vienna Document with a new date on its cover can paralyse its implementation for many months to come (as was the case in 2011), due to the need to complete domestic approval procedures first.
We believe our partners have much to ponder, and then decide on their priorities, whether it’s "containment" of Russia or dialogue with Russia, including on the CFE and the CSBMs. Sitting on two chairs at once is a dubious proposition.
Russia remains committed to the full implementation of its obligations in the sphere of confidence-building and security measures, and puts considerable effort and resources into it. The certification of Russian Open Skies aircraft with digital monitoring equipment on board that took place the day before yesterday is an example of constructive cooperation with our partners in this area. We hope there will be more such examples which, coupled with the gradual improvement of the military-political situation and the restoration of military contacts, would help create a favourable atmosphere for further joint work here in Vienna.
Thank you, Mr Moderator.