Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the OSCE, said, “we are at a stage right now, where Russia could attack [Ukraine] at any time.” He believes the European security architecture and, the entire post-war rules-based order is under threat. The US ambassador claims “we have seen constant violations of the bedrock principles of this order. Russia is the principal violator of this principle.”
“I think it is incumbent on all of us, in the international community who live by these rules and want to live by them in the future to defend the system, to stand firm for these principles, and that means, unfortunately, if we get down to it, imposing costs for their violation. We cannot allow these elements of peace and stability in Europe to wither away.
We have seen a dramatic build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine and we’ve seen short-range ballistic missiles being discussed in the press. There have been helicopters and other types of subsystems, that have been deployed near the borders. So, I can’t say for certain what the Kremlin’s intentions are, but they have a massive force ready to strike at any time, which is extremely concerning,” he stated.
In an interview with GPG First Channel, Michael Carpenter dubbed the situation with the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine as “rather paralyzed.” “They have been harassed and restricted from doing their work, particularly in the territories controlled by Russia.”
“There is no freedom of movement and no unrestricted access as has been called for in the Minsk Agreements and elsewhere, and that is the concern. I wouldn’t say that the situation in the Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk and Lugansk is calm because there is artillery fire, but it is not as bad as it has been in the past. But that doesn’t mean that Russia is not poised for an invasion across the border, because it is poised. We should not treat the situation in Donetsk and Lugansk as necessarily an indicator of what comes next. But of course, we are concerned about the situation there as well, because the humanitarian situation is already very difficult,” he noted.
Asked whether Georgia was mentioned during recent talks with Russia, Michael Carpenter pledged “I have repeatedly raised Georgia in all of my interventions, in the sense that we cannot trust Russia’s intentions.”
“Russia says that it is only deploying troops on its own territory, which is what we saw happen in the lead up to August 2008 in Georgia as well. So, we have seen this playbook before. We know that this can be used to mask a “surprise attack,”, but this time I think we have a little bit more understanding of what could transpire in the coming weeks and months. But Georgia is also, unfortunately, the symbol of unfulfilled commitments. We have the August 12 ceasefire agreement, which, to this very day, has not been implemented. It called on Russia to withdraw its troops to their barracks, to the positions that they occupied before the world broke up and Russia never made good on those commitments. Instead, it has occupied 20% of Georgian territory and that is also a cautionary tale,” he asserted.
Remarking on how can the U.S. and Georgia strengthen their relationship in the face of Russian aggression, the US ambassador stressed the need to continue to enhance military to military cooperation, to cooperate more in terms of building democratic resilience.
“We have to partner very closely with our Georgian friends. You may know this, but when I was in the Pentagon, we launched a territorial defense initiative with Georgia. It’s called the Georgian Defense and Readiness Program, which I’m very proud of to enable Georgia to help defend its territory. I think we need to continue to enhance our military to military cooperation. I think it’s essential. I also think that we need to cooperate more in terms of building democratic resilience. At the end of the day, the more resilient the countries are, the more unified, the stronger their democratic institutions are, the harder the target they are for subversive attacks from the outside, from Russia, or elsewhere. So I think there is a range of things that we can and should be doing, between the U.S. and Georgia, and I hope we can see more progress on that front. I think it’s vital that we, as like-minded partners, as countries that are committed to democracy, deepen our cooperation,” he said.
Michael Carpenter noted that the OSCE, and NATO are ready to have “serious, open, and high-level discussion with Russia about elements of concern, where they see threats, and where we see threats.”
“In the course of that conversation, we can talk about confidence-building measures, risk reduction, crisis communication, reciprocal restraint on our forces, even potentially conventional arms control, but we need to do that in the spirit of de-escalation, and under no circumstances can we tolerate a delusion or discussion of compromises on our core principles, which means the right of sovereign states to choose their own alliances. That’s an area where there is simply no trade space. The OSCE has a range of instruments that it can use to advance our collective aims for a more cooperative security environment. In fact, one of the best mechanisms that the OSCE has developed is the “Moscow Mechanism,” which allows for the investigation of human rights violations. There’s the Vienna Document, which is the pillar of European security as far as military transparency is concerned; There’s the CAF Treaty, which was the cornerstone of conventional arms control in Europe for many years until Russia walked away from the treaty in 2007. So, the instruments are there. However, if these instruments and the norms that underlie them are violated, then we have to look at first principles and have this conversation about the costs that are born by a state that violates these basic principles. I think that’s the conversation we are having today,” he stated.
The US ambassador to the OSCE thinks the exclusion of Russia from the OSCE would be “a mistake.” “I think that this is a forum where we have every participating state, as they say, from Vancouver to Vladivostok, every single NATO member, every single EU member, and all of the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union.”
“They all sit at this table, even small states, big states, everybody in this space. I think it’s very important to have that inclusive discussion, no matter how bad things get. I would remind you and your viewers that in the 1970s and 80s, at the height of the Cold War, we also had this dialogue back then in the CSCE, and it was very useful for negotiating treaties and other instruments that would bring down tensions. It is important to maintain the OSCE in its current form and not exclude anyone, but we must have a serious discussion about the principles that are being violated.
As you know, the Geneva International Discussions have this topic on their review and they meet on a regular basis with the OSCE present, making this a very important set of discussions that will continue to move forward. What I would love to see happen is the OSCE getting more involved in Georgia. That is the conversation I would like to have with my Georgian counterparts and with the Georgian government. Because the OSCE does a lot of work that people aren’t aware of, that isn’t controversial, and that helps to build democratic resilience, some of our field missions in Central Asia and the Western Balkans work on issues like human trafficking, how to prevent it, how to combat it, and how to build social resilience; these are things that can benefit the society and the country in question, and they don’t cause controversy. So, I would love to find a way to bring a greater OSCE presence to Georgia, but that’s obviously going to be tricky, and so we’re going to have to have that conversation in the months to come,” he added.