United States Mission to the OSCE
As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer
to the Joint Meeting of the Forum for Security Cooperation
and the Permanent Council, Vienna
April 7, 2014
Remarks on Military Activities of the Russian Federation on the Border with Ukraine
On March 28th, we asked Russia for details regarding its ongoing military activities along its border with Ukraine.
Specifically, we would like to know:
1) What is the purpose and anticipated duration of these activities?
2) What is the composition and strength of the Russian military forces involved in these activities?
3) To which units and formations do these deployed forces belong?
Based on the number, types of units, and deployed locations of the Russian forces in the southern and western military
districts, which border eastern and northern Ukraine, this deployed force has a character that appears designed to
intimidate and/or conduct short-notice, sustained, offensive military operations into Ukraine. More broadly, Russia's
occupation of the Crimean region undermines the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. We urge Russia to
reduce its troops to pre-crisis numbers and positions.
The buildup in Russia's Rostov and Belgorod regions opposite the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Kharkiv, as well as the
deployment of forces near Klimovo, barely 20 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, is substantial. The scope of the
forces includes not only ground forces, but also forward-deployed air power, providing quick-strike capability and air
support to potential ground operations.
Colleagues, maintaining a large concentration of troops in the field at a time when conscripts are normally scheduled to
leave service further suggests that this is not an exercise. NATO military authorities have noted that the Russia force
is “sized and outfitted and provisioned with everything that it needs to have an incursion into Ukraine.” We have
consistently urged the Russian Federation to take steps to de-escalate. The number of Russian troops massed in this area
close to the border with Ukraine is clearly aimed at threatening and intimidating, and is therefore an ongoing
As Secretary Kerry has indicated to Minister Lavrov, it is important that these troops return to their barracks. We note
reports that Minister Lavrov indicated on April 3rd that President Putin had ordered the withdrawal of one battalion of
troops from Rostov. That is a potential small step in the right direction. We would welcome specific information on the
process and timing of such a move, and any further withdrawals, and an opportunity to observe this process.
We also took note of Russia's comment that the military activities of its forces do not require the provision of
information or notification under the Vienna Document. It is clear to us that enough of the forces and major weapons
systems involved are accountable to trip the Vienna Document reporting ceilings. Of course, more broadly, the unusual
military activity provision of the Vienna Document is not restricted to raising concerns about specific types of
military activities or the number of troops involved in such activities. Clarification of the purpose and duration of
this unusual military activity is important to reassure OSCE partners, especially when the activity occurs so close to
the border of another participating State.
Both Secretary Kerry and Supreme Allied Commander for Europe General Breedlove have delivered a clear message that what
the international community seeks is genuine movement away from the Ukrainian border and back to Russian garrisons, if
we are to be convinced that Moscow is trying to de-escalate the situation. At the same time, recognizing that onsite
inspections and observation visits can contribute materially to building confidence in situations of tensions, Russia
should offer additional Vienna Document inspections and Open Skies overflights to observe Russian military activity in
the region of the Ukrainian border. These should be aimed at answering the questions laid out at the beginning of my
Colleagues, I want to close by underscoring a few points.
First, I saw the notification sent around by the Russian Federation on Friday when they refused to participate in the
consultations provided for under the Vienna Document, in which they claimed that our desire for consultations was
somehow “anti-Russia” – it is nothing of the sort. The Vienna Document is one of the tools that we have built together
to address the situation where we have concerns. It was adopted by consensus, it took enormous hard work, this is one of
the tools in our toolbox, and there is nothing prejudicial towards anyone, in any one of our States’ seeking to use it.
The second point I'd like to make: there have been some questions raised about whether thresholds have been met under
the Vienna Document. It is clear to us that thresholds have been met. However, for those who have not been persuaded
that thresholds have been met, I reiterate the provisions in the Vienna Document for unusual military activity still
give us reason to request further information from Russia, and put the burden on the Russian Federation to take steps to
address the concerns raised by other participating States.
The context of this seeking of information should not be lost on anyone. It is not unreasonable for Ukraine, or any of
us, to have deep concerns about troops massed on Ukraine's border, especially given the recent and ongoing violations of
Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Russia has committed grievous
violations of international law, and this is the background against which any reasonable person must seek to understand
their deployment of troops on the Ukrainian border.
The events of the last 24 hours also, again, raise questions. We will need to see as more facts come to light. It seems
strangely coincidental that these activities all took place in different parts of Ukraine on the same afternoon. There
are reports on social media this morning about how “pro-Russian residents” of Kharkiv stormed the Opera, thinking that
it was the town hall, and demanded that the mayor come out. It's very surprising that these so-called “residents” of
Kharkiv would think that the Opera was the town hall.
It's not unreasonable for any of us around this table to have concerns about the massing of troops on Ukraine's border.
What is unreasonable is the Russian Federation's repeated contempt of the tools that we have built together, each of us
around this table, and their refusal to provide information that could dispel the very reasonable concerns that we have.