Thank you for inviting me to join you today and say a few words as you mark this impressive “18/18” milestone: 18 years since the Agreement was signed and 18 months into the transition process to your full “ownership”. Dayton Article IV is a testament to what can be achieved through conventional arms control measures at a time when they are being sorely tested elsewhere in Europe. In the Western Balkans, you are undisputed leaders in this arena today, and I congratulate you on your accomplishment.
The United States is, of course, a Witness to the Agreement, but I also feel like I have an insider’s view of what you have accomplished. A member of my staff was on the original team that worked with you during the negotiation of the Agreement. For those of you who remember Donna Phelan, I can assure you that she is still on the job, now at the Department of State, and one of my most trusted advisors.
Despite a range of differences to sort out, you were able create a comprehensive arms control agreement that led to significant reductions in heavy weapons and equipment in just six months. Without as much as a breather, you then turned your efforts to the harder step of fulfilling the obligations laid out in the Agreement, to sustain disengagement of military forces and create a stable security environment for all.
I’ve heard some stories about long and heated meetings, something I can relate to having led the U.S. team that negotiated the New START Treaty. Arms control is never easy. Nevertheless, you kept your eyes on the prize and established an arms control regime that has made a major contribution to stability and predictability in the Western Balkans and the rest of southeastern Europe.
Given your ability to work through complications and identify positive solutions, it should come as no surprise that you are now on the cusp of the next big step – taking ownership of the process.
General Torres and his staff have provided a good focal point, a link between the Article IV Parties and the OSCE. We are grateful to him and his predecessors for the personal and professional commitment they have shown. I understand that establishing procedures to address the assistance provided by the Personal Representative’s office has been one of the major challenges during your transition to ownership. It is just a few months until the conclusion of that process in December; I encourage you to start now embracing that role.
It is also important at this moment in history to increase engagement with other OSCE states, to share your own views of how you have reached your current level of successful implementation.
Just as the OSCE shares with other regions of the world the lessons learned about our experience in Europe with arms control and confidence and security-building regimes, you – the Parties to the Article IV Agreement – are well-positioned to share your experiences with others in the OSCE.
Your experiences and lessons learned will be a useful contribution to broader discussions about the future of conventional arms control in Europe. As we focus on that work, I encourage you to share your difficulties as well as your successes, so we can get a better sense of the range of issues addressed by an arms control agreement on a sub-regional level.
Right now, we have some serious and urgent issues to address in the OSCE, many of which were discussed last month during the Annual Security Review Conference. Many states noted the importance of modernizing our OSCE tools to better address today’s security concerns.
For the United States, this means continuing our work to modernize the Vienna Document, bringing digital sensors into the Open Skies Treaty regime, and seeking other ways to modernize conventional arms control in Europe. Our goal is increasing mutual confidence and predictability for all. I encourage you to examine your 18 years of experience with the Article IV agreement and bring your own ideas to this discussion.
The Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty have provided some critical transparency into military activities in Ukraine and western Russia, which exemplifies the importance of continued implementation and modernization of conventional arms control in Europe.
With regard to modernizing the Vienna Document, our work should reflect lessons learned from recent Vienna Document activity in Ukraine. Implementation of both the spirit and letter of the Vienna Document is needed to address situations such as Russian force concentrations on Ukraine’s border.
Of course, the Russian military intervention in Ukraine will have a serious impact on our work to modernize conventional arms control in Europe. The United States remains committed to this effort and is prepared to move ahead. As we do so, we will benefit from your experience.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this historic meeting, and please allow me to wish you every success with the important and continuing Article IV process in the Western Balkans.