U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The Brussels Hub
MODERATOR: Today we are very honored to be joined by Ambassador Michael Carpenter, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the OSCE.
With that, let’s get started. Ambassador Carpenter, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ll turn it over to you for opening remarks.
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Great. Thank you so much, and thanks to all of you for joining us today. I’m going to make a few short comments at the top to review where things stand at the OSCE on the eve of our annual Ministerial Council, and then I’ll be happy to take your questions.
So first of all, the Ministerial Council will be held on December 1st and 2nd in Łódź, Poland. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland will lead the U.S. delegation, and there will be representatives from the 57 OSCE participating states and 11 partner states as well.
The most important topic on the agenda this year – not surprising – will be Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. On this issue, you’ll find that Russia and Belarus as the two co-aggressor states are completely isolated. That’s a pretty remarkable achievement given that Russia’s CSTO allies, as they’re called, all sit at the table, and yet they refuse to defend Russia’s actions in Ukraine or to support its web of lies and disinformation.
You will recall that the OSCE launched a renewed European Security Dialogue in early February of this year to provide Russia with an opportunity for de-escalation, supported by all the participating states of the OSCE. However, the Kremlin rejected the path of dialogue and instead chose war. So we expect this year’s Ministerial Council to feature an overwhelming condemnation of Russia’s war and the horrific atrocities committed by Russia’s forces, which have shocked so many here in the OSCE community.
I don’t know who will be representing Belarus given the untimely death of Foreign Minister Makei only a few days ago, but it’s quite possible that Russia will be completely isolated at this meeting.
In many ways, however, the real story at the OSCE is not what’s being said but rather what’s being done. Those of you who are familiar with the OSCE are aware that this organization has
for many years been challenged by its reliance on consensus decision-making. Since February 24th of this year, however, a critical mass of likeminded states at the OSCE has begun to act even in the face of Russia’s obstructionism to defend our shared principles and to stand by Ukraine.
At the very beginning of the war, to give you a few examples of this, we invoked something called the Moscow Mechanism to field an independent team of experts to document war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross abuses of human rights. We invoked that mechanism twice to investigate what Russia was doing in Ukraine, and the OSCE fact-finding teams both times confirmed that war crimes had been committed. We also invoked the Moscow Mechanism to document the Kremlin’s increasing repression in Russia, which the experts determined was inextricably linked to its external aggression.
A second example is that in September, Foreign Minister Rau, the chairman-in-office, convened the OSCE’s annual human rights conference in spite of Russia’s objections, bringing over 1,100 civil society participants from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and many other parts of the OSCE region to Warsaw for a hugely successful meeting in which governments were indeed held to account by their civil societies.
Finally, a third example is that on November 1st, the OSCE inaugurated a new field mission called the Support Program for Ukraine, funded entirely through voluntary contributions, including a generous contribution from the United States. Through this new field presence, we intend to support projects that will contribute to enhancing the resilience of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure; humanitarian demining; the mitigation of the environmental impacts of the war; the provision of psychosocial support services for victims of the war; strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to document and prosecute atrocities and war crimes; and then finally, helping Ukraine to keep track of and eventually reunite families who have been torn apart by Russia’s brutal so-called filtration operations.
It’ll take some time for these projects to be developed and implemented, but we’re finally back in action in Ukraine. So we’re not just talking, but also doing more and more to support Ukraine with each passing month.
Finally, while I have the floor, I just want to highlight for you all that the OSCE, besides being a forum for dialogue, also has 13 field missions in the Western Balkans, Central Asia, Moldova, and, as I just explained, a brand-new mission in Ukraine. The OSCE also has three autonomous institutions – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the High Commissioner on National Minorities – that carry out very important work like election monitoring and speaking out on media freedoms. And finally, the OSCE has a number of special representatives who carry out work on extremely important issues like anticorruption, countering trafficking in human beings, supporting gender equality, and promoting tolerance and nondiscrimination.
I’m just going to give you a few quick examples of the field work to really give you a flavor of what this organization does that’s often beyond the headlines and not carried by some of your outlets.
So in Tajikistan, for example, the OSCE supports women resource centers that provide the only government-sanctioned outlets for victims of domestic violence by providing legal aid, psychological support, and help with finding employment.
In the Western Balkans and Central Asia, our field missions support efforts to document and safeguard stockpiles of small arms and light weapons to enhance stability and security in many of these post-conflict societies.
And in the aftermath of Russia’s war, the OSCE disseminates information on the risks of human trafficking using an innovative public-private partnership that pushes the information to smartphones of those most at risk.
These are just three examples, three real quick examples from among hundreds of the work that this organization and staff are doing throughout the OSCE region. And we’re confident that this work will continue and potentially expand under the future chairpersonship of North Macedonia, which we’re looking forward to.
So that’s what I’ve got. Thanks for your attention, and happy to answer your questions.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much, Ambassador. We’ll turn it over to the question and answer period now. The line is open if people would like to ask their questions live, but we’ll go first to the pre-submitted questions, the first being from Huseyin Hayatsever from Reuters in Turkey. The question is, “How do you assess Turkey’s position in the Ukrainian war considering its attempts for mediation, its support for Ukraine, but also its good relations with Russia at the same time?”
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, Turkey, as you know, is a participating state in the OSCE and has been very, very active since February 24th in supporting Ukraine. At the Permanent Council, the Turkish ambassador speaks out very forcefully in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and is not afraid to call out the actions and the atrocities that Russia is perpetrating in Ukraine.
Turkey has also been a great partner on the grain deal, which is critical for Ukraine to be able to export grain to international markets but also for the Global South, where without the provision of Ukrainian cereals and foodstuffs, the food security crisis that is being experienced in many parts of the world would be much, much worse, greatly exacerbated. And so Turkey played an instrumental role in that, and of course Turkey has also provided security assistance to Ukraine and humanitarian assistance, I might add.
So Turkey is – certainly has a relationship with Moscow. I’ll let them speak to that. But in the OSCE they have been a very constructive partner.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We’ll go to a live question now. Yaroslav Dovgopol from Ukrinform, you have the mic.
QUESTION: Hello. Can you hear me?
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for having my question. So that is about the status of a state sponsor of terrorism for Russia. We are all well known the current position of the U.S. administration, and yesterday your colleague, Ambassador Julianne Smith, cited the President Biden’s previous statement saying that this is – that this isn’t necessary at the moment. And now we see repeating Russian missiles attack on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, and so on. So my question is, does the administration – the U.S. administration – consider the possibility of designation of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism in the future or it is an option off the table at all? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Yeah. Well, the first thing that I’ll say, Yaroslav, is that there is absolutely no doubt by anyone in the Biden administration that what Russia is doing is aiming to sow fear across Ukraine and using the most brutal and horrific methods to do it. They are trying to turn out the lights and the electricity and the heating this winter, and Russian forces have been documented to have been engaged in various war crimes over the course of the last nine-plus months. So let there be no doubt about the facts.
What the Biden administration has also said – and you just quoted my colleague, Ambassador Smith – is that unlike a lot of other states in Europe, we have a very specific domestic statute on state sponsors of terrorism, and we believe that using that statute would hamper our ability to provide humanitarian assistance to parts of occupied Ukraine as well as to facilitate certain actions that we see as in the interest of both Ukraine and the United States, like the grain deal that I just referred to. Furthermore, we don’t believe that the designation of a state sponsor of terror, according to the very technical, narrow definition that is included in that domestic statute, would necessarily advance our aims of holding Russia to account because it would not necessarily give us any additional authorities to implement sanctions than we already have currently available to the administration.
And so what we’re going to continue to do is ramp up the sanctions pressure on Russia, continue to look at expanding export controls and tightening any loopholes that exist with regards to sanctions and exports, and we’re going to continue to provide Ukraine with all the means necessary to defend itself against this barbaric invasion. And we are doing this based on what we believe is the most effective way to support Ukraine.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. I’ll go to a submitted question now from Oksana Shnaider from a Ukrainian television channel. The question is, “The council of ministers of the OSCE will meet for the first time without a representative of the Russian Federation. What does this mean in practice? Is it necessary to continue to exclude Russia from international organizations, in particular the UN Security Council?”
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: So, Oksana, thanks for the question. I’m going to correct you a little bit because there will be an ambassador from the Russian Federation present here at the Ministerial Council. Poland did deny a visa to Foreign Minister Lavrov, but there will be a Russian representative present here.
When it comes to – so to take your larger question, when it comes to the OSCE, when it comes to the UN, these are inclusive organizations in which there is no mechanism or provision for expelling a member. And so what we are trying to do here at the OSCE is focus on exposing the horrors and the atrocities that Russia is committing inside Ukraine, isolating Russia – and Belarus as a co-aggressor – to the maximal extent possible, and holding them to account by insisting that there be some form of justice and accountability for all the war crimes, human rights abuses, and possible crimes against humanity that have been committed thus far.
That is where our focus lies. As I said earlier, we are also in the business of supporting Ukraine. We have a brand-new field mission that we launched on November 1st that will be focused on supporting Ukraine’s population and civil society and its institutions, both during the war and then also with the post-war recovery and reconstruction. And so we are trying our best at the OSCE to get around the obstacles that Russia puts in our way by finding ways to get business done, like this new field mission, that rely on the goodwill of like-minded states who have condemned Russia’s actions. And so far we’ve been rather successful, and I – there’s the three examples I cited in my opening comments.
But there is no pathway, there is no mechanism, for excluding Russia from either the OSCE or from the UN. And I understand listeners and viewers who are outraged by Russia’s actions – and let me assure you, I am outraged as well. What Russia is doing is absolutely horrific. It’s barbaric. It’s beyond the pale of human decency in many cases. But we here at this particular multilateral organization are going to continue to work within the confines of that organization to support Ukraine as best we can. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We’ll go live now to Oskar Gorzynski from the Polish Press Agency. Oskar, you have the mic.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity, Ambassador Carpenter. I wanted to follow-up on Yaroslav’s question because we’ve seen the NATO parliamentary assembly passing the resolution calling on members to recognize Russia as a terrorist regime. And there was a Polish resolution and European resolution. So I know that the American SST designation carries certain consequences. But do you agree that it’s a deserved – that Russia deserves to be designated as a terrorist state?
And about the denial of visa to Mr. Lavrov. Do you have any position on that? Do you think it’s justified? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: So I’ll take your second question first. In terms of the denial of the visa to Mr. Lavrov, as you know, visa matters are the sovereign prerogative of the 57 participating states at the OSCE. We all have our laws, and we all follow them based on those statutes and regulations. Poland has made this choice, and we respect Poland’s choice.
So coming back to the question on Russia as a state sponsor of terror or whether it could be designated, as you put it, as a terrorist regime, those are two different things, I would note. Again, to state what I said before, the United States is one of the very few – I’m not aware, in fact, of any other countries; there may be some – but we are one of the very few countries that
we have a very specific domestic statute, a law, that speaks to the definition of a state sponsor of terror, and then that prescribes and proscribes certain types of government activities based on that definition.
As I said before, we believe that this formal finding would not give us any additional tools to ramp up the costs on Russia that we couldn’t do otherwise just on our own, and that it would hamper our ability to provide humanitarian assistance and other forms of support to Ukraine, particularly in those areas that are controlled by the Russian Federation.
So we have focused – and I want to give you a couple figures here – on supporting Ukraine and on ramping up those costs. You know about our sanctions regime. You know about the export controls that we’ve put in place, which are among the most extensive in the world. In addition to that, we’ve provided $1.9 billion in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since Russia first invaded Ukraine. We have provided $8.5 billion in direct budget support to the Government of Ukraine, and we’ve got an additional $4.5 billion in direct budget support coming soon.
And we’ve provided $19.7 billion – that’s almost $20 billion – in military assistance since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration in January of ’21. And we’ve led the effort, I would say, to provide advanced systems, military systems, to Ukraine, including, of course, the air defense systems that are now showing up inside Ukraine: the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS; the HIMARS, or High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems; and artillery and drone-jamming devices and ammunition and tactical vehicles, and so much more.
So we’re focused on doing what is most effective to impose costs on Russia, give Ukraine the means to defend itself, and then supporting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and its population through humanitarian assistance.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. I’ll go to another submitted question from Kristina Zelenyuk, also from Ukraine. “What further scenarios do you see for the development of Russia’s war against Ukraine? Is a second mobilization a possibility?”
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Thanks for the question, Kristina. What I would tell you is that I predict that Ukraine will win this war and that Russia will ultimately lose because it is clear that what is right is on the side of Ukraine and what is in violation of our fundamental principles of international law is on the side of Russia. And so I think that the world has rallied around Ukraine and therefore Ukraine has both the determination, the will, but also the moral high ground to prevail in this conflict.
With regards to – if you’re talking about more immediate-term scenarios, what I will say is that we have seen over the course of the last few months that as Russian forces have suffered defeats on the battlefield – at first the Russian blitzkrieg and attempt to march on Kyiv failed spectacularly in March; then there were some setbacks in Kharkiv; and then most recently, of course, there was the Ukrainian liberation of Kherson – as Ukrainians have progressed on the battlefield and have shown their tremendous courage and skill in defending their territory – they’re rolling back Russian advances – the Russian strategy is focused increasingly on hitting
Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, on causing pain and suffering to the people of Ukraine, including, of course, civilians – by cutting out the lights, by cutting heating, electricity, making this winter a miserable winter for Ukrainians.
That appears to be the strategy that General Surovikin is leading right now, but it will fail. And it will fail because the international community will support Ukraine, will give Ukraine – we’re already in the process of giving Ukraine layered air defenses and the means to defend itself even more vigorously as these weapon systems continue to flow onto the battlefield. So that’s my prediction for you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. We’ll go to another live question. Alex Raufoglu, please, you have the floor.
QUESTION: Yes, John. Thank you so much. And Ambassador, thank you so much for your time. I have a question on the South Caucasus, but let me before that follow up on two previous questions quickly.
When we talk to Ukrainians, we can also hear them saying that calling everything by its name is a crucial step in bringing justice and placing responsibility, accountability, for Russian war crimes. Now, we just heard a British parliament speaker saying that – this afternoon that Holocaust is happening again. Are you in a position to reflect the U.S.’s view on this? Is Holocaust happening again in the OSCE geography?
Secondly, Russia is derailing peacekeeping missions, disrupting the budget process, threatening an organization that is vital for Europe’s security, blocking decisions on the 2024 OSCE chairmanship that is crucial for the bloc’s normal functioning. Do you think if remained unpunished, without being called out, Putin’s Russia is sort of creating an atmosphere of impunity within the agency which might actually harm the OSCE?
And my last question is on Armenia-Azerbaijan. Any plans to bring the ministers together during the summit, as you know, after Azerbaijan said no to peace talks, if President Macron is (inaudible)? Thank you so much.
AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Thank you, Alex. That’s quite a few questions. Let me see if I can go through these one by one.
So in terms of calling things by their name, I believe we do that pretty effectively every week at the permanent council. And if you go back and look at my statements, you will see that I do not spare any words when describing Russian atrocities inside Ukraine. We do believe it’s very important to speak truth, to bear witness to what is happening now, which is something that hasn’t happened really on this scale since World War II. I mean, we have seen of course there was the tragedies that unfolded in the former Yugoslavia in the ’90s and there have been – there was genocide in Rwanda and there have been other atrocities, mass atrocities, committed in various parts of the world. But to see a military conflict this big involving this many troops with a nuclear power involved is rather unprecedented.
Yes, we do believe it’s important to call things by their name. I think President Biden spoke to the question of genocide when he was asked about it, and I completely agree with the President on this and have said so numerous times in public and happy to say it again today.
When it comes to your second question on Russia’s blocking of the OSCE unified budget, its blocking a decision on a chair for the organization in 2024, and what do we do if we don’t punish or call them out – well, first of all, we are calling them out. We call them out all the time on these issues and state very clearly that they are obstructionist; they are often the sole participating state that is preventing some of these decisions from being taken. That’s why it’s so important for all of you in the media to understand that we have really made a conceptual leap in taking so many decisions in the last nine months not with Russia’s approval but, in fact, without unanimity. I would say with consensus because most of the states agree, but without unanimity.
And so we’ve launched this new mission in Ukraine, the Support Program for Ukraine. We have held the human rights conference in Warsaw in September despite Russia’s staunch opposition. And we’ll continue to find ways to fund the programs and projects of the OSCE even if Russia blocks the budget, because there are extrabudgetary ways of funding project activities that we can use and that we will use. So if Russia puts up roadblocks, we’re going to go right around them and find ways to continue supporting Ukraine and the other states in the OSCE where we have field missions.
On your third question on the diplomacy between Armenia and Azerbaijan in pursuing an agreement that would bring peace to the region and normalize relations, as you know, the United States is very keenly involved in this process – I should say very deeply involved in this process, very keenly interested in securing a peace agreement, and we will continue to look for ways to bring the ministers and the leaders together. It’s no secret that we’re working very closely with our EU partners on this and looking at also deploying the toolkit of the OSCE, which did deploy a needs assessment team to the Armenian side of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border at Armenia’s request, but also supporting very much the EU efforts on the border.
Our objective is simple: We would like to see the border delimited as soon as possible; we would like to see a peace agreement agreed between the two sides as soon as possible so that peace and stability comes back to the region, the human rights and the security of all individuals living in this region are respected, and we can turn a new page in the history of the South Caucasus. Obviously it’s going to take some time to get to that end state, but we’re committed to doing everything we can to support that outcome.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. Unfortunately, that is all the time that we have today. Thank you for your questions and thank you especially, Ambassador Carpenter, for joining us. Shortly we will send the audio recording of the briefing to all the participating journalists and 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 – that’s one word – @state.gov. Thanks again for your participation and we hope you can join us for another press briefing soon. This ends today’s briefing.