Biden’s correspondent: «Russia does not respect the Vienna Document and refuses to discuss the exercises. Grateful to Italy for the diplomatic effort. We are still trying the path of dialogue, but we are ready in any case “
“The next few days will be critical. We asked Russia for a commitment to diplomacy, but the ball is now in the Moscow field and we have to see if they will choose dialogue or escalation. We hope they choose the latter path, but we are ready in any case ». We speak to Michael A. Carpenter, American ambassador to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) who has just come out of a briefing on the increase in mortar fire in the Donbass, in the area that is not under Ukrainian government control. “We understand that Russia has prepared the groundwork and information space for a false flag operation and to use a pretext to invade Ukraine. Therefore we must be very attentive to the information and check several times before giving confirmations, ”he says Courier service the ambassador, former deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, Euraria and conventional arms control, and formerly an advisor to Vice President Joe Biden as director for Russia at the National Security Council. Carpenter says he is “grateful to his Italian allies” for Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s attempt to promote a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky. “We are consulting with all allies – Draghi, Scholz, Macron, Johnson and others to push for diplomacy.”
You strongly criticized Russia’s refusal to participate in a special joint meeting of the Permanent Council and the OSCE Security Forum requested by Ukraine following the start of Russian border exercises under the Vienna Document with the goal of obtaining detailed information on the deployment on its borders, in Belarus and Crimea.
«It is noteworthy that, in this moment of extreme tension, Russia does not participate in these meetings: these are discussions that are intended as risk reduction measures. This attitude speaks volumes about their transparency on military operations. There is only one state that has amassed well over 150,000 troops on the border of another state by all means of combat – tanks, artillery, planes, helicopters – and that is Russia. Moreover, Moscow has signed the Vienna Document ».
What are OSCE observers able to see on the ground?
«The Special Monitoring Mission is present only in the territory of Ukraine: it therefore does not have the ability to see what Russia is doing on the other side of the border and certainly not in Belarus or in occupied Crimea. But it is still very useful because some of the propaganda and disinformation we are seeing coming from Russia – which claims that Ukraine is amassing troops on the fighting line – can be disproved as SMM reports show that there are no signs of such activity. “.
A few days ago the news came that some countries are withdrawing observers from this mission, which is also continuing. What impact does this decision have?
«The mission continues and it is important, we will continue to support it financially. The US and two other countries – Canada and the UK – have temporarily withdrawn observers due to the extreme danger we are in right now. We ask all American citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible as long as commercial means are available, and this applies to everyone: we have reduced the embassy in Kiev and asked the observers to withdraw temporarily. If the situation stabilizes, we will be happy to get them back. Most of the countries of the European Union, Russia, Bosnia, some Central Asian countries and others remain on the ground. This complicates the situation because that additional staff would help but due to the duty to protect our citizens, we had no choice for now ».
European leaders speak of an attempt to return to dialogue on the Ukrainian crisis through the Minsk Agreements, but there is no agreement between Kiev and Moscow on how they should be applied.
«Ukraine has embraced the Minsk Agreements as a way to resolve the conflict and restore sovereignty and territorial integrity to the country. In reality there is very little ambiguity about what is written in the Minsk Protocol of February 2015. Three points are very clear: they require a lasting ceasefire, the removal of heavy weapons from prescribed areas and unrestricted access to the Osce observers. Russia is violating all three of them. Even if there are differences of interpretation on the other more political points, the security preconditions that would allow the implementation of the Minsk Protocol are absent because Russia refuses to apply them ».
Is it necessary to re-discuss European security?
«This is a critical moment for European and world security for the rule-based international order. This is why the United States supported the Polish president in launching a renewed dialogue on European security, because we believe that the fundamental principles of the Helsinki Final Act and the United Nations Charter are under attack and it is necessary to discuss how to enforce them. Under no circumstances will we support recalibrating or diluting those principles, but we want to reinforce compliance with measures that include the control of conventional weapons such as intermediate-range ballistic missiles. But these agreed principles need to be respected rather than reviewing the system. Our response to Russia was clear ».
Former Moscow Ambassador Michael McFaul states in an article in Foreign Affairs that “the Vienna documents do little to increase transparency, and the OSCE has become ineffective largely because Moscow objects to its effort to monitor elections.” and to protect human rights ”. McFaul states that we should arrive at a kind of Helsinki 2.0.
What do you think?
“With all due respect to Mike who is a good friend, it’s not that the Vienna Documents or the OSCE are ineffective. Every adopted principle and every international agreement depend on the political will of the member countries. The Helsinki Final Act binds states to a number of principles ranging from fundamental freedoms to territorial sovereignty and integrity, the inviolability of borders – which are fundamental to maintaining a rules-based international order. But when a state decides to violate those principles, it is not the task of the OSCE or the UN to censor it but of the participating states, which must mobilize and apply pressure for that state to change trajectory, and that is exactly what you see in action now. There is an unprecedented unity between the members of NATO and the EU and others, in the opposition to the Russian violation of fundamental principles ».
Could this unprecedented unity be the reason why Russia has decided not to participate in the meeting requested by Ukraine at the OSCE, preferring for example single meetings with leaders who go to Moscow?
“I think there is an element of truth in this. Russia feels that there are no states in the OSCE that support it. On February 8, when the launch of the dialogue on security was discussed, 44 states gave their support to the initiative, only Russia opposed it and Belarus made an ambiguous intervention ».
Is there a fear that Russian troops will remain in Belarus even after military maneuvers?
“There is certainly the possibility that they will remain in Belarus well beyond that date. There is also another aspect: in April last year, there was a large mobilization of Russian troops and although most of them were withdrawn, a lot of equipment remained. Now the Russians can’t keep 120,000 troops on the Ukrainian border ready for combat but what will they leave behind when they leave? What platforms and what equipment? There is an instrument, the Vienna Document, which was adopted and then renewed in 2011 precisely to address situations like these: a measure for transparency in the military field that allows states to observe and inspect the military maneuvers of other countries to make sure they are not preparing operations. Yet in 2022 we are here to see Russia violating not only the spirit but the letter of those Documents by refusing to notify and allow the observation of the maneuvers with a series of pretexts. This reduces transparency and increases suspicion and tension. This is why what President Biden and others in the administration are doing is spreading openly what the Russians are doing on the ground. ”