Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing by the Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe

Michael Barkin
Senior Policy Advisor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 6, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. Prime Minister Rama, it’s an honor to have you with us today in the chamber and thank you for your briefing. Human rights, democracy, peace, and the maintenance of regional stability are vitally important to all of us, but they cannot be preserved without deliberate effort. This makes the OSCE a crucial partner in promoting these values, as it also complements this Council’s efforts to address global security concerns.

We face a range of challenges today that threaten democratic institutions. Cyberwarfare and disinformation campaigns, including meddling in elections of other states, tear at the fabric of free and open societies. Authoritarian states and leaders who disregard the human rights and dignity of their own people, including freedoms of expression, association, religion and belief, and peaceful assembly, also disregard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring states. Prime Minister, we appreciate the OSCE’s commitment to combat these attacks on freedom and related challenges during your chairmanship. As a member and the largest provider of financial support and personnel to the OSCE, the United States is advancing all dimensions of the OSCE’s work. We encourage progress towards a comprehensive update of the Vienna Document to enhance military transparency and rebuild confidence among the 57 OSCE participating states. We also welcome greater OSCE focus on corruption and accountable governance. Some OSCE states have not kept commitments or selectively implemented arms control arrangements. To address these failures, creative, courageous leadership is [needed] from the Structured Dialogue on Security Issues.

Nowhere is the OSCE’s presence more important than in Ukraine. Russia’s ongoing aggression has led to the deaths of more than 13,000 people, displaced 1.4 million people, and left 3.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance. This poses the greatest threat to European security since the Cold War. We are encouraged by recent progress, including Ukraine’s and Russia’s recent detainee exchanges and work to improve humanitarian conditions. This progress has been achieved thanks to President Zelensky’s extraordinary commitment to achieving a peaceful resolution. However, we need to see much more from Russia, which still ignores calls for a comprehensive ceasefire. Russia instigated this conflict and continues to arm, train, lead, fund, and fight alongside its proxies in eastern Ukraine. It must immediately follow through on its Minsk commitments, withdraw its forces, support further disengagement, expand crossing points, and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty both in eastern Ukraine and in Crimea.

Under such difficult circumstances, we are proud of the work the OSCE has done in Ukraine, including the Special Monitoring Mission’s essential assessments of the situation on the ground. We call on Russia and its proxies to stop interfering with the work of SMM monitors and assets and give them full access and freedom to fulfil the OSCE’s mandate. The United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters. We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea. We join our European and other partners in affirming that our Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia fully implements its Minsk commitments. Our Crimea-focused sanctions will also remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.

Further, the United States opposes Russia’s continuing occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are part of Georgia. Russia’s actions contravene its international commitments and violate Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Although Russia participates in the OSCE’s 5+2 Transnistria settlement negotiations, it has not fulfilled its 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit commitment to withdraw its forces from Moldova. Instead, Russia has used protracted conflicts to obstruct the development of a rules-based order and slow the region’s gravitation toward European and trans-Atlantic institutions.

We look forward to working with the OSCE to resolve these conflicts, including the Geneva International Discussions and 5+2 talks. We thank the OSCE Chair and participating States for their support of the Minsk Group process, where the United States, Russia, and France are working productively as co-chairs to help the sides find a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As I noted at the beginning of my remarks, the preservation of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, peace, and stability requires deliberate effort. The United States is committed to this effort, and we will continue to work closely with both the United Nations and the OSCE to strengthen the principles that undergird free nations, both in the OSCE region and around the globe.

Thank you.