Moderator: Good afternoon from the Brussels Media Hub. I would like to welcome everyone joining us for today’s virtual press briefing. Today we’re very honored to be joined by Ambassador Michael Carpenter, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
And with that, let’s get started. Ambassador Carpenter, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ll turn it over to you for your opening remarks.
Ambassador Carpenter: Thanks, Andrea, and thanks, everyone. Good afternoon. Today the Polish chairperson-in-office of the OSCE, Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, launched a renewed European Security Dialogue at the OSCE, noting that we were at a critical juncture in European security. The United States was represented at these talks by Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman and myself. The Deputy Secretary expressed gratitude to Poland for its leadership and vision at the OSCE, and thanked Foreign Minister Rau for his leadership in kicking off this high-level dialogue. The dialogue represents an opportunity for all 57 OSCE participating states to walk the path of diplomacy together with an aim of achieving concrete, practical results that enhance our mutual security.
The OSCE is a critical forum. It’s the largest regional security organization in the world. It is an inclusive organization that has every country in Europe and Eurasia represented at the table. It has the political-military expertise to discuss confidence and security-building measures, concerns about conventional forces, military transparency, and risk reduction. It’s an organization that is rooted in a comprehensive concept of security that includes military, economic, and environmental and human security. And it’s an organization, importantly, that’s grounded in a set of fundamental principles as embodied in the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter, the Charter for European Security, and other key documents.
So no one thinks this is going to be an easy discussion, but it’s a necessary one, and if we wish to avoid conflict, it’s essential. The Russian Federation has made clear that it wishes to discuss indivisibility of security, and frankly, we’re ready and willing to have that discussion. Deputy Secretary Sherman made clear indivisibility of security does not mean one country can threaten force against another; indivisibility of security does not mean one country can invade another country’s territory; indivisibility of security does not mean one country gets to veto another country’s choice of alliances or dictate its foreign policy.
So our message to Russia is clear: Let’s engage in dialogue and diplomacy, not conflict and confrontation.
The context, as I think all of you know, for today’s extraordinary OSCE meeting, it’s not lost on anyone. Russia has amassed well over 100,000 troops on its border in one of the largest mobilizations in Europe in decades. It is armed to the teeth with combat aircraft, attack helicopters, tanks, artillery pieces. It’s surging ammunition and blood supplies to the border. Russia has locked and loaded its guns and it’s pointing them at Ukraine.
As President Biden has directed us, though, we are offering Russia the opportunity to pursue the path of diplomacy and de-escalation. We’re ready to participate in a genuinely open, honest dialogue that hopefully produces concrete results by lowering tensions, providing more transparency, and building greater confidence. We’re willing, together with our partners and allies, to explore creative new ideas. But everything we do has to be grounded in respect for our core principles – the principles that all 57 OSCE states signed up to repeatedly over the last five decades and, in fact, more: sovereignty, territorial integrity, the inviolability of borders, peaceful settlement of disputes. These principles cannot be revised or renegotiated.
So with that, I’m happy to take your questions.
Moderator: Thank you so much. We’ll now turn to the question and answer portion of today’s briefing.
And our first question goes to Zumrud Pashayeva from APA Information Agency in Azerbaijan, and the question is: “Recently, permanent representative of Russia to the OSCE, Mr. Lukashevich, said that this organization is, and I quote, ‘an amorphous structure without international legal status, and it is unable to influence the situation in the Euro-Atlantic space,’ end quote. What do you think? Is the OSCE still capable of impacting processes in the region?”
Ambassador Carpenter: So thank you for the question. I think it’s a little bit disingenuous of some of our friends to argue that the OSCE is an amorphous structure when the Russian Federation has, at the head-of-state level, I should note, signed up to numerous OSCE declarations, starting with the Helsinki Final Act, including the Paris Charter that I referenced, the Charter for European Security, the Astana Declaration, and many, many others.
The OSCE is a platform that is inclusive, everybody gets a voice. Sometimes it produces results, sometimes it doesn’t. But in the past, even at the height of tensions during the Cold War, the OSCE has been able to even spin off legally binding treaties that have advanced all of our security such as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. It has produced the pillar of European military transparency in the form of the Vienna Document.
And so my view is the OSCE has the potential to de-escalate tensions and even produce new forms of conventional arms control. It takes everyone sitting at the table, demonstrating political will and the desire to de-escalate and to agree on new measures that would advance their security.
So that’s the criterion for moving forward, but the organization itself is, in fact, ideally suited to have this conversation.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Our next question comes from David Kriegleder from ORF in Austria, and David asks: “After French President Macron’s visit to Russia, there’s been talk about how the revival of the Minsk 2 agreement could help ease tensions in Ukraine. How could the OSCE help to facilitate the proper implementation of the Minsk Protocol, and what can we learn from OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine considering the current state and shortcomings of Minsk 2 on the ground?”
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, that’s a great question, David. The Minsk agreements in their totality, including the Minsk agreements of September 2014 and February 2015, offer a pathway to resolving the conflict in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine. And let’s remember that Russia is a signatory to those Minsk agreements, as is the OSCE. And so it is incumbent on Russia to implement the portions of the agreements that speak to its responsibilities, but the OSCE also has a role to play, as does, of course, Ukraine.
I would note that the Minsk agreements call first and foremost for settling and stabilizing the security situation on the ground. So they call for a durable ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from proscribed zones, and then unfettered access for the Special Monitoring Mission that is an OSCE mission throughout the territory of Ukraine. Those key first conditions are currently not being met because the forces that Russia leads and that Russia supplies are continuing to fire on Ukrainian positions, and now we’ve got well over 14,000 lives lost as a result of this conflict. We have heavy weapons in the proscribed zones, and we have blockages on the ability of the OSCE’s SMM mission to monitor the full entirety of the region of Ukraine, not to mention the fact that one of the key provisions of the Minsk agreements which called for monitoring – excuse me, monitoring of the international border between Russia and Ukraine, that mission on the border was vetoed by Russia last year.
And so we’re walking further away from implementation of the Minsk agreements rather than walking closer. And so I’m glad that President Macron raised this issue with President Putin when he visited, but we firmly believe and we support Ukraine’s position that the resolution of the conflict lies in full implementation of those agreements.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Our next question is from Jill Junnola from Energy Intelligence in the UK. The question is: “What areas of common ground on European security are emerging between the U.S. and Russia? Has there been progress on agreeing rules of the road on military exercises, missile launcher deployment, troop deployments, locations of military bases, or other areas?”
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, we have put on the table – we, the United States, have put on the table a number of proposals both in our bilateral channel at the NATO-Russia Council and now we’re launching this dialogue here at the OSCE. And we’ve addressed a wide range of possibilities of reciprocal transparency measures regarding offensive weapons systems in Ukraine as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe, potential arms control measures related to missiles in Europe; and then we’ve also tabled, of course, our interest in a follow-on agreement to New START that covers all nuclear weapons, as well as ways to increase transparency and stability.
So we’ve put quite a bit on the table. For now, we are waiting for the Russian side to show whether it is interested in engaging on those issues or not. And we are open, again, to having this discussion bilaterally at NATO and at OSCE. We believe that all those issues that impinge on the security of the other 56 OSCE members should be discussed in the OSCE. We should have that conversation where everybody is able to sit at the table. And so right now we’re waiting for Russia to engage.
Moderator: So then following on that question, or that answer, we have a question from Dmitry Kirsanov from TASS, who asks specifically: “Mr. Ambassador, when do you expect the next round of talks on Russia’s security proposals to take place at the OSCE?”
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, thank you, Dmitry, for the question. What I would say is that this extraordinary launch of a renewed European Security Dialogue today was at the initiative of the chairperson-in-office, Foreign Minister Rau. Now, obviously Russia has made a number of proposals and has tabled texts in the recent past, the last few weeks. But this proposal was done after extensive consultations with other OSCE participating states, not just Russia but including Russia, of course, but many others as well.
And the Polish chairpersonship has focused on three broad clusters in which the discussion is going to be oriented. The first has to do with confidence-building measures, military transparency, and conventional arms control. The second has to do with conflict-resolution processes, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. And then the third has to do with nonmilitary and comprehensive aspects of security, to include energy security, to include environmental security, and human security, importantly, including human rights. And so we plan to have this discussion in all of those three clusters or all of those three tracks, if you like, going forward. And Russia is certainly invited to come and put all of its concerns and all of its ideas on the table together with everybody else, and we will move forward.
Moderator: Thank you very much. And now our next question comes from Nino Tsabolovi from EuropeTime.eu in Georgia. Nino asks: “U.S. officials say that Russia has two paths. Secretary of State Antony Blinken describes a path of diplomacy and dialogue or massive consequences. After this statement and from yesterday’s and today’s meeting, what is your impression? Which path has Russia chosen? For example, French President Macron said there are crucial days ahead after the Putin summit. Thank you.”
Ambassador Carpenter: Yes. Well, thanks for the question. As I noted earlier in my opening comments, Russia has amassed an unprecedented force on its border with Ukraine as well as in Belarus – well over 100,000 troops on its own border with Ukraine and up to 30,000 troops, if not more, inside Belarus. It’s armed to the teeth. It has everything from artillery and attack helicopters to combat aircraft and every manner of enablers that’s poised and ready to attack if the order is given.
So you’d have to ask President Putin what he intends to do next. We have made clear that we are sharpening the choices for the Kremlin. We’re offering our preferred path, which is the path of diplomacy and dialogue, including here at the OSCE, but also, as I’ve said earlier, at NATO and bilaterally, and we’re willing to engage on all the concerns that Russia wants to put on the table. We’re of course going to put our concerns on the table too, together with those of our partners and allies. But we’re willing to have that conversation in an honest and open manner.
Now, on the flip side, if Russia chooses the path of military escalation – God forbid, but if it does – then we’re prepared to impose what have been described as massive and unprecedented consequences. And by “we,” I mean not just the United States but the entire G7, the entire North Atlantic Alliance, NATO, as well as the European Council, which has also coordinated very closely with the United States.
So the choice is President Putin’s to make, and I don’t – I can’t tell you what choice he’s going to take. But that is, roughly speaking, the sharpened choices that we have presented going forward.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Our next question comes from Paul Shinkman, who asks: “Do you believe Hungary’s deference to Russia in recent weeks has empowered the Kremlin? And do you expect the OSCE’s recommendation of an election observation mission to Hungary to affect that government’s actions with regards to Russia?”
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, thanks for the question, Paul. I’ll take your second question first, which is that no, I do not expect the OSCE’s recommendation to have a full election observation mission in Hungary will have any consequences with regards to our Hungarian allies’ orientation vis-à-vis Russia. I think they have said they will welcome the OSCE mission and we hope it does its job just like OSCE election observation missions do in every country where they deploy.
As for the first part of your question, I will note that Prime Minister Orban did travel to Moscow and had an extensive meeting with President Putin. We believe that our Hungarian allies would be very concerned if Russia was again to violate borders in the heart of Europe, meaning specifically the borders of Ukraine. They have said that they support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and today at the renewed European Security Dialogue they have endorsed the process that was launched by Foreign Minister Rau.
So we hope that they continue to forcefully advocate for dialogue and diplomacy, which we also believe in.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Our next question comes from Jonathan Tirone from Bloomberg. The question is: “How long is this discussion within the OSCE scheduled to endure? What kind of OSCE resources will it require? And has Russia already committed to supplying the OSCE secretariat with the resources required to conduct these discussions?”
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, this is an open-ended dialogue. There is no specific end date to this process. We’re willing to sit down and have these discussions for as long as it takes, and we’re ready to dive in and drill down very deep on the specific issues. One of the reasons why the OSCE is an ideal format in which to have these talks is because we have, as I said earlier, the military and political-military expertise to be able to discuss military transparency and confidence building and risk reduction.
And that expertise, most of it is resident here in the forms of our arms control delegates and our delegations that participate every week in discussions on these topics. And so we don’t need additional resources to be able to pursue this dialogue; this is essentially what the OSCE was created to do in the first place, beginning with the CSCE process that was launched in the mid-1970s with the negotiation of the Helsinki Final Act all the way through to today. So we’re prepared to extend this offer to have the dialogue for as long as it needs to happen so that we can hopefully have some space to arrive at common ground.
Moderator: Thank you very much. And I – we now have a question from Alex Raufoglu. Alex, your line is open.
Question: Yes, can you hear me?
Moderator: Yes, we can.
Ambassador Carpenter: Yes.
Question: Thank you so very much, Ambassador. My question is about Russian demands. President Biden said that most of those demands are non-starters, and he also reflected that right now that has generally been the view of much of NATO and OSCE as well. So what is there for Moscow and Washington to talk about today? Thank you so much.
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, so thanks for the question. Let me clarify. So what we have said consistently for many, many weeks and months now is that there is no trade space on the core principles of the international order, and that means no trade space on sovereignty, on territorial integrity, on no allowance for spheres of influence, no ability of one state to veto another state’s foreign policy or its decision whether to join or not join alliances. That’s all off the table.
But what is on the table is a discussion in detail on issues like missile placement in Europe, which we’re prepared to have in a bilateral context, of course in consultation with our allies and partners; also a discussion of military transparency, which we think the OSCE is the right forum to have that discussion; also confidence-building measures, which could be discussed both in NATO or at the OSCE. There’s any number of ideas pertaining to conventional arms control writ large in the broadest meaning of that term that we would be happy to discuss with Russia if they want to get down and have a serious discussion of specifics.
As I said earlier, we’re willing to drill down on those topics, but we’re not willing to entertain dilutions or renegotiations of our core principles.
Moderator: Thank you very much. And I believe we have time for one more question, and we have two questions on this topic so we’ll go to Paul Shinkman from U.S. News and World Report again. And the question is this: “How can the U.S. be so definitive that Nord Stream 2 will be shut down if Russia invades since Germany itself has not stated definitively that it would do so? And have you seen any indication that President Biden’s assertions yesterday about the pipeline have had any effect on the Kremlin?”
Ambassador Carpenter: Well, I can tell you that the President was extremely clear that if Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward. And we – he had very good meetings with the German chancellor in Washington, and we have had extensive consultations with our German allies over the course of the last many, many weeks and months, in fact since July of last year where we arrived at an agreement in terms of Russia’s use of energy and how that impacts European security. And we’re going to continue to have those consultations as we go forward.
Moderator: Thank you very much. Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for today. I’d like to now turn the floor back over to Ambassador Carpenter for his closing remarks.
Ambassador Carpenter: Thanks. I don’t have much in the way of closing remarks. Let me just reiterate what I repeated earlier on a couple occasions, which is that this is a critical inflection point, and we believe there is a path forward that is a diplomatic path and that will entertain serious conversations about European security and how we can lower tensions and strengthen confidence-building measures and strengthen transparency and find ways potentially to have reciprocal restraint. But we hope that Russia joins this process because the alternative, frankly, is a disaster for European security; it’s a humanitarian disaster; and it’s a strategic catastrophe for Russia because it will set Ukraine even further and more staunchly against Russia for decades and generations to come if there is, in fact, a Russian military escalation in the near term.
And so we’re prepared either way, but we are offering this path of diplomacy and dialogue as an alternative, and it’s a serious one. Thanks very much for joining.
Moderator: Thank you very much, Ambassador Carpenter, and thank you to all of our journalists for their questions. Shortly we’ll be sending the audio recording of the briefing to all the participating journalists and we’ll provide a transcript as soon as it is available. We’d also love to hear your feedback, and you can contact us at any time at TheBrusselsHub@state.gov. Thanks again for your participation and we hope you can join us for another press briefing soon.