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July 4, 2018 No.
7552

Russia-NATO Update – Deputy FM Grushko: NATO Is Hostage To The Ukrainian Crisis; NATO Countries Must Choose Between Divided Security – In Confrontation With Russia, Or United Security With Russia

Russia-NATO Update is a review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news on Russia-NATO relations from the Russian and East European media.

The NATO summit is scheduled in Brussels for July 11-12. Four days later, US President Donald Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. According to Russian expert, Andrei Kortunov (Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council), the outcomes of the summit will have an impact on the Trump-Putin meeting. Indeed, the NATO summit will bring some clarity to the relations of the United States with its European allies.[1] The Trump administration has demanded that its NATO allies and particularly Germany meet the 2% of budget defense spending quota. If he achieves some success, it will mean an increase in the NATO budget.

To get the Russian take on developments in NATO, we provide excerpts from an address by Russia's former permanent representative to NATO and its current Deputy FM Alexander Grushko, at the OSCE Annual Conference in Vienna, addressing Russia-NATO relations, comments by Anton Mazur, the Russian delegation chief to the conference talks on military security and arms control as well as excerpts from a TASS interview with Grushko:

Annual OSCE Conference On Security Issues - Deputy FM Grushko: After The End Of The Cold War The World Has Become Economically And Politically Multipolar

On June 26, at the Annual OSCE Conference on security issues in Vienna, Russian Deputy FM Alexander Grushko charged that the Russian "military threat" is a "myth" that has been inflated to "absurd" proportions. He then added that Russia's defense budget in 2018 was about $46 billion and slated for future reductions. By comparison aggregate defense spending in the NATO countries totaled $1 trillion. Grushko also accused "some political forces" of attempting to use Russophobia as the main driver of European and Euro-Atlantic unity, a "unity" that is anyway falling apart for "objective" reasons. "The narrative about Russia that has been imposed on public consciousness by an unprecedented propaganda campaign has nothing to do with reality in this country, its efforts in the international arena or the aspirations of the Russian people," stated Grushko.

Below are excerpts of Grushko's speech:


Alexander Grushko (Source: Vesti.ru)

Grushko: Multilateral Formats Are Being Used Not To Restore Trust But To Exert Pressure On Russia, In Part, By Limiting Dialogue

"The current situation in Europe and the world is very turbulent. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin put it, a game without rules has become the rule. Thirty years after the end of the Cold War the world has become economically and politically multipolar. A dangerous uncertainty in relations between states and their associations is growing. International law is being subjected to trials. Regional conflicts continue to flare up. States have to counter transnational threats many of which are due to Western intervention. Giant territories on the periphery of the OSCE do not have any statehood and have turned into territories that are controlled by various terrorist groups. All of this requires a consolidated effort on a truly collective basis. Attempts to form 'security islands' around NATO or the EU will not work under the current conditions.

"Russia has offered many times to agree on the rules in this respect, and to counter common threats. Ten years ago we suggested the idea of a treaty on European security but the proposal was ignored. When we began to rebuild our position, the West resorted to the tried-and-tested practice of interference in internal affairs, sanctions and military deterrence instead of an equitable dialogue.

"Incidentally, the coup in Kiev that lead to Crimea's self-determination and a civil war in Donbass are indicative. It is surprising how quickly and easily NATO returned to its initial 'raison d'être,' that was succinctly formulated by its first Secretary General Lord Ismay: to keep Russians out, Americans in. I will not mention the third element of this formula.

"Today NATO and the EU have made the architecture of security hostage to the crisis in Ukraine – one of many conflicts in Europe. But sanctions and pressure will not settle conflicts or enhance security. Let me recall that after the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, which changed the very paradigm of European security, the European countries still managed to start working for common interests. The Charter for European Security and the adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe demonstrated a political will for cooperation.

"Today, the NATO countries must answer this question for themselves: do they think security should be divided – in confrontation with Russia, or united – in cooperation to counter common threats? Regrettably, for the time being multilateral formats are being used not to restore trust but to exert pressure on Russia, in part, by limiting dialogue. These days only few people do not talk about the need for de-escalation and prevention of dangerous military incidents or the wrong interpretation of the intentions of the sides. Nobody argues this. But how do we achieve this if military contacts are completely frozen and other channels of political and public communication are ruptured? The answer to this question is obvious. Consistent cooperation in areas of common interest has been suspended and one more resource for enhancing trust and security has been closed.

"Unilateral sanctions, demonization and imposition of the image of an enemy are aggravating the confrontation. Some political forces are trying to use Russophobia as the main driver of European and Euro-Atlantic unity that is falling apart for objective reasons. The narrative about Russia that has been imposed on public consciousness by an unprecedented propaganda campaign has nothing to do with reality in this country, its efforts in the international arena or the aspirations of the Russian people. Specific political steps are being justified by ill-disguised excuses like 'highly likely' or the absence of other plausible explanations. There is no end to this. Now attempts are being made to assign 'attributive functions' to the OPCW Secretariat in violation of the fundamental principle of all regimes of non-proliferation and arms control – the sovereign and exclusive right of states to assess the fulfillment of commitments. This is a direct road to a crisis and conflict in The Hague Organization and the undermining of UN Security Council prerogatives. No less dangerous is the trend to look at the regions of the world through the prism of geopolitical competition and a 'zero sum game.' This fully applies to the Western Balkans.

Grushko: The Myth About The So-Called Russian Military Threat Has Been Inflated To Absurd Proportions; Russia's Defense Budget In 2018 Was About $46 Billion And Will Be Reduced In The Future, Whereas In NATO Countries It Amounts To An Aggregate Sum Of $1 Trillion

"Unless we stop these dangerous trends, confrontation can become irreversible. Especially so, when it underlies not only politics, but military planning as well. The myth about the so-called Russian military threat has been inflated to absurd proportions. In this regard, you may be aware that Russia's defense budget in 2018 was about $46 billion and will be reduced in the future, whereas in NATO countries it amounts to an aggregate sum of $1 trillion, which is more than half the total military spending of all the countries in the world. In the United States, it exceeds $700 billion, and its European allies will soon have it at $300 billion. If they comply with the NATO-established 2-percent rule, the European allies' total defense spending will reach $400 billion, with 20%, or about $100 billion a year, set aside for arms purchases. This begs the question: for what purpose? What enemy or enemies are they going to fight? The US operates about 800 military bases worldwide and is implementing a global missile defense system project with components deployed in Poland and Romania. The Alliance continues to establish its presence in Eastern Europe and to speed up the implementation of the "open door" policy, which only creates new dividing lines and exacerbates instability. Of course, in its defense planning, Russia has to take account of these factors.

"Mr. Chairperson, we support any and all attempts to return to a normal depoliticized conversation about security issues, including as part of the OSCE 'structured dialogue.' It is imperative to restore cooperation to cover the entire range of new threats and challenges. Europe and North America were swept by a wave of terrorist attacks in 2016-2018. We will not forget the tragedy in Nice, London, Berlin and Brussels. More and more acts of terror are committed by persons who have returned from conflict zones or loners subdued by terrorist propaganda. This suggests that fighting the ideology of terror and foreign terrorist militants is coming to the fore, including in the OSCE.

"Drug trafficking is closely tied in with terrorism, as its proceeds are used to finance terrorist attacks. The area of land used to grow drug crops in Afghanistan - an OSCE partner - is expanding. In 2017, it reached a record high of 300,000 hectares. Synthetic and psychotropic substances distributed through the internet represent a threat to the citizens of our countries. The OSCE should not turn a blind eye to these problems. We are in favour of boosting its capacity on the anti-drug track and are making our contribution by implementing the OSCE project to train specialists from Afghanistan and Serbia.

"Migration represents a major common challenge. It is being felt most acutely in Western Europe in connection with the influx of migrants from the southern Mediterranean. We are convinced that the OSCE can contribute to global efforts to address migration problems, of course, without duplicating them.

Grushko: I Would Like To Re-Emphasize The Importance Of Restoring Confidence And Moving Towards A Community Based On Equal And Indivisible Security

"Colleagues,

"OSCE resources remain an important factor in conflict resolution. I have already mentioned the civil war in eastern Ukraine. More than 10,000 people died there in four years, including 2,500 civilians. The situation is worsening. Kiev is blocking the Minsk agreements which are the only basis for the settlement. The Ukrainian laws on reintegrating Donbass and education and launching the Joint Forces Operation led to an armed escalation and more victims. We hope that the OSCE's efforts in the Contact Group and the Special Monitoring Mission's onsite activities will contribute to implementing the Minsk Agreements and facilitate a settlement to the internal conflict.

"The situation in Kosovo, where ethnic tensions continue unabated, is a source of concern to us. Pristina is sabotaging the creation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, preventing the beginning of court proceedings on the Kosovo Liberation Army's crimes, and forming its own 'armed forces.' The OSCE must maintain its presence in that region.

"We are glad that progress has been made in the Transnistrian settlement process in December 2017 with the participation of the OSCE. We note the positive results of the first in 2018 5 + 2 meeting in Rome and the efforts of Special Representative of the Italian Chairmanship Franco Frattini. Now, it is important to make sure that the parties honor the agreements that have been reached. Unfortunately, the adoption on June 22 of the UNGA draft resolution initiated by Moldova represents a step back in this regard.

"The work of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to advance the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process remains an important part of OSCE activities.

"The OSCE co-chairmanship in the Geneva discussions between Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which is aimed at developing stable security guarantees in the Caucasus, deserves high praise.

"It is important to make full use of the OSCE Platform for Co-operative Security to establish a dialogue between all organizations operating within the Organization's space. By the way, this initiative was put forward by the EU in 1999. It is important to continue to seek the harmonization of integration processes in our common interests, and the OSCE can play an important role here.

"I agree with the position of the Italian chairmanship that it is time to take a comprehensive look at the OSCE's outreach and its mechanisms. The effect of extra-regional factors on security in the OSCE zone will continue to increase.

"Colleagues,

"In closing, I would like to re-emphasize the importance of restoring confidence and moving towards a community based on equal and indivisible security, which our leaders agreed upon during the 2010 Astana summit. This, in turn, will aid the resolution of conflicts and the fight against common threats. I hope that today's Conference and the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council in Milan will help us achieve that goal."

(Mid.ru, June 26, 2018)

Grushko's interview with TASS: NATO Has Always Wanted To Expand The Zone Of Its Exclusive Influence To The Black Sea

On June 28, Grushko had an interview with the Russian news agency TASS. During the interview, Grushko stressed that NATO always wanted to expand to the Black Sea. However, Crimea's annexation in 2014 ruined NATO's plans. He then added that the West cannot accept that the policy of multipolarity is growing stronger, and is striving to maintain its traditional domination.

Below are excerpts of Grushko's interview:

Grushko: Crimea's Reunification With Russia In 2014 Upset NATO's Plans In The Black Sea

Question: "What is Russia's view on the NATO expansion plans in Europe, in particular, in the Black Sea region?"

Alexander Grushko: "The bloc has always wanted to expand the zone of its exclusive influence to the Black Sea. However, Crimea's reunification with Russia in 2014 obviously upset NATO's plans and its Black Sea game of patience. As for NATO's current expansion plans in the Black Sea, we have recorded a growing number of port calls by the ships of non-coastal NATO countries. Our Western colleagues know very well that any destabilizing actions near Russian territorial waters will provoke a rapid and commensurate reaction from the Russian Navy.

"We firmly believe that regional problems must be resolved through cooperation, primarily between the coastal states. The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) has major potential in this respect. The cooperation mechanisms that are available in the Black Sea region are quite sufficient for ensuring security."

Grushko: We Are Concerned About The Deterioration Of The Military And Political Situation In Northern Europe And The Baltics

Question: "At the same time, NATO is also hiking up its activity in the north, including Norway."

Alexander Grushko: "We have commented more than once on the expansion of foreign military presence in Norway. We believe that these actions contradict Norway's policy of non-deployment of foreign military bases in peacetime and the traditions of neighborliness. These actions may increase tensions and destabilize the situation in the northern region. We view them as an element of US-led military preparations, which have become more active against the backdrop of anti-Russian propaganda hysteria.

"We are gravely concerned about the deterioration of the military and political situation in Northern Europe and the Baltics. Contrary to the objective interests of maintaining peace and stability in Europe, NATO continues to focus its attention on 'containing' the non-existent 'threat from the East', despite the fact that Russia made a decisive contribution to eliminating the material legacy of the Cold War by withdrawing troops from Germany, Eastern Europe and the Baltics, and fulfilling its arms reduction obligations. These actions have greatly contributed to the strengthening of security and stability in the region.

"NATO's military activity is aimed at creating a bridgehead for pressuring Russia. These acts of provocation are undermining security in Europe, including in those countries that call for the deployment of foreign troops on their territory."

Grushko: There Is An Increasing Contradiction Between The Policy Of Multipolarity, Which Is Growing Stronger, And The Striving Of The US To Maintain Their Traditional Domination

Question: "What is your opinion of the NATO-Colombia partnership?"

Alexander Grushko: "There is an increasing contradiction between the policy of multipolarity, which is growing stronger, and the striving of the United States and the historical part of the West to maintain their traditional domination.

"The development of partnership with Colombia is part of NATO's policy of expanding the sphere of its geopolitical influence beyond the so-called traditional zone of the bloc's responsibility.

"I don't know if Bogota will benefit from this partnership, but NATO's use of the patterns of Cold War is evidence of the bloc's inability to adapt to the new security environment."

Grushko: Contacts Between Russian And NATO Military Leaders Have Recently Become Invigorated To Some Extent

Question: "How does dialogue develop in the Russia-NATO Council format?"

Alexander Grushko: "On May 31, Brussels hosted a regular meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at ambassadorial level. Meeting participants focused on the most pressing matter, namely, the security situation in the Euro-Atlantic region.

"In this connection, we drew attention to our assessments of the degrading military security situation. First of all, this is linked with expanding rotational presence near the Russian borders, the fast modernization of the infrastructure for the rapid redeployment of reinforcements to the theatre of war, the establishment of new commands, the drastic expansion of offensive potentials as well as the creation of missile defense facilities. We once again noted that time was long ripe for a professional discussion of military security concerns, including that at expert level, measures to streamline the mechanism for preventing dangerous military activity, aerial and high-seas incidents, as well as ways of scaling down military activity along the line of contact on a reciprocal basis.

"Contacts between Russian and NATO military leaders have recently become invigorated to some extent. Both parties have noted the importance of meetings between Chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Petr Pavel (September 2017) and Supreme Allied Commander Europe Curtis M. Scaparotti (April 2018). But I repeat, these meetings should be supplemented with professional discussions at expert level. We are also determined to continue the useful practice of exchanging briefings on major exercises in Russia and NATO countries."

Grushko: Washington Is Exerting Major Pressure On Nord Stream 2 And Trying To Use Geopolitical Arguments For Creating More Favorable Conditions For The Delivery Of LNG From The United States To Europe

Question: "And now, let's talk about the European Union. Apart from Crimea and Ukraine and with due consideration to US meddling, construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a major problem in relations with our European partners. What is the current status of this project?"

Alexander Grushko: "Although a number of EU states and outsider countries, including the United States, as well as some EU's agencies have a negative opinion of the Nord Stream 2 project, I don't want to over-exaggerate the situation. Today, the project has been approved by three out of the five countries involved."

Question: "But the Danish Prime Minister has said Copenhagen might block the project."

Alexander Grushko: "Indeed, Denmark voices a special position, as confirmed by Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen. But, to the best of our knowledge, there are alternative cost-effective commercially justified pipeline routes. I would also like to recall that the legal service of the Council of the European Union has already commented on the European Commission's attempts to create legal obstacles hampering the implementation of Nord Stream 2.

"I am talking about the European Commission's proposed amendments to the so-called Gas Directive of the EU's Third Energy Package. If approved, these amendments would spread the requirements of European legislation to the entire Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The legal service of the Council of the European Union issued its negative findings on this matter. We hope that the EU will be guided by legal logic and their international obligations, rather than Russophobic sentiments of certain EU politicians.

"From a political standpoint, it is, of course, obvious that Washington is exerting major pressure on Nord Stream 2 and trying to use geopolitical arguments for creating more favorable conditions for the delivery of LNG from the United States to Europe. But everyone admits that consumers perceive US LNG as commercially unattractive; moreover, this gas is unable to compete with Russian pipeline gas."

Question: "As you know, Bulgaria, that had previously refused to deal with the South Stream, has suddenly become interested in receiving direct supplies of Russian natural gas via the Black Sea bottom. Is it possible to meet its interests?"

Alexander Grushko: "As for the construction of a gas pipeline on the bottom of the Black Sea, which is basically the latest version of South Stream, I will say that we have already made a decision. Cooperation with Turkey on the South Stream is going fairly well. As for Bulgaria, we can only talk about a surface branch section of the Turkish Stream line, and we hope that Bulgaria will complete the development of its national gas system on schedule and on a scale that will ensure Russian gas distribution to European consumers via the surface transit line starting on January 1, 2020, in part, to ensure gas deliveries to the border with Serbia."[2]

Grushko: We Have Noticed A Certain Invigoration Of Russian-EU Contacts Recently

Question: "In the latter half of this year, the EU Presidency will change from NATO member Bulgaria to neutral Austria. Do you have any positive expectations about this change?"

Alexander Grushko: "We are working closely with any EU presidency. We have a normal working relationship. Here in Vienna I held consultations with the Austrian presidency. This is common practice and of course we discussed several issues that directly concern both the EU-Russia political dialogue and prospects for cooperation in all areas where our interests objectively coincide. Regular contact with the Austrian presidency will continue.[3]

"On the whole, despite persistent divergences with the EU, we have noticed a certain invigoration of Russian-EU contacts recently. Thus, in February and March of this year we held a number of Russia-EU foreign policy consultations on the issues of the Arctic, Afghanistan, the Middle East, North Africa and the post-Soviet states as well as the need to counter terrorism and illegal drug trafficking. On February 27, Secretary General of European External Action Service Helga Schmidt visited Moscow. On June 7, Russia and the EU held consultations on the Western Balkans, the OSCE and the Council of Europe in Brussels. Expert meetings on Africa, the Asia-Pacific Region and Latin America are planned for the near future.

"A few days ago Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Jean-Christophe Belliard had consultations in Moscow in the format of Russia-EU political directors. The talks were quite extensive. The parties discussed in detail the state of and prospects for Russia-EU cooperation as well as a number of pressing international issues, including the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear programme, settlement on the Korean Peninsula, and the situation in the Western Balkans and Ukraine.

"Both sides laid emphasis on the importance of maintaining dialogue on issues of mutual interest in conditions of stronger challenges to global stability."

Question: "You mentioned the JCPOA. What do our European partners think about implementing this plan?"

Alexander Grushko: "The remaining participants of the six powers continue to closely cooperate with regard to the future of the JCPOA. An extraordinary meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna on May 25 (without the participation of the United States) confirmed everyone's commitment to maintaining the JCPOA."

Question: "Here's my last question. We owe money to the Council of Europe, which the Secretary-General of this organisation, Thorbjorn Jagland, once again reminded us about the other day, adding that the due date is June 30. What happens if we don't pay?"

Alexander Grushko: "It will be possible to talk about full settlement of this issue only after all the powers of our delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have been reinstated.

"It should be reminded that the problem was created by irresponsible behavior of some delegations in the PACE and, in fact, has existed since 2014. In anticipation of a positive decision, we continued to make full contributions to the Council of Europe's budget, but in 2017 it was decided to freeze this contribution in order to create additional catalysts for resolving this issue. However, to date, the problem has not been resolved.

"This issue affects not only the Russian delegation. The fact of the matter is that PACE, using the rules of procedure, has changed the fundamental principle of equality of states enshrined in the Charter of the Council of Europe, therefore, the crisis in the Council of Europe has a deeper basis than simply a matter of excluding or not excluding one delegation. It is imperative to restore the unity of the organization and ensure the principle of equality.

"We are aware that corresponding work is under way in various entities, and we expect that sooner or later the strategic considerations related to the need to preserve this unique pan-European instrument for creating and maintaining a single legal space from Lisbon to Vladivostok will prevail, and the corresponding solution will be found."

(Mid.ru, June 28, 2018)

Read More:

  • Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma committee for international relations, said that Russia is prepared to become the major sponsor of the Council of Europe [CoE] once again and to resume the payments of membership fees in full if changes are made in the regulations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] and the clauses allowing national delegations to be stripped of powers go. (Tass.com, June 27, 2018; read the full article)
  • Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu says Russia’s military group in Crimea is capable of repelling any enemy. (Tass.com, June 20, 2018; read the full article)

Annual Security Review Conference – Russian Diplomat Mazur: To Create Proper Conditions For Discussing The CSBMs, The Alliance Must Cease Building Up Its Activity On The Eastern Flank, And Then Scale It Down

On June 27, Anton Mazur, head of the Russian delegation at the Vienna talks on military security and arms control at the Annual Security Review Conference, spoke during a working session on "Conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures: challenges and opportunities."

During his speech, Mazur pointed out that with the aggravating Ukrainian situation, NATO made things worse. "NATO rapidly turned to using the patterns of 'comprehensive deterrence' that have essentially amounted to the intimidation of our country," opined Mazur. He then added that the scale of NATO military activities in the Eastern flank is calling into question the viability of the agreements sealed in the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act.

Below are the excerpts from Mazur's speech at the Annual Security Review Conference in Vienna:


Anton Mazur (Source: Flickr.com

Mazur: With The Worsening Of The Ukrainian Crisis, NATO Turned To Using The Patterns Of 'Comprehensive Deterrence' That Have Amounted To The Intimidation Of Russia

"… We were again urged to expand transparency and upgrade the Vienna document. But let's look at the background against which such statements are being made.

"Long before the current crisis in Russia-NATO relations, some measures taken by the Alliance provoked the emergence of risks and challenges for Russia's security interests. This is a brief list of these measures: NATO's advance close to our borders, development of military infrastructure in its new member countries, engagement in new forms of military activities, creation of the European segment of the US global missile defense system, and participation of non-nuclear countries in nuclear exercises under NATO's aegis. All of this has seriously undermined our trust.

"NATO's decisions made in the context of the worsening Ukrainian crisis have further aggravated the situation. NATO rapidly turned to using the patterns of 'comprehensive deterrence' that have essentially amounted to the intimidation of our country. Military exercises in Eastern and Central European countries have become more frequent and large-scale (sometimes exercises involving 40,000-50,000 troops take place in one region simultaneously or consecutively). Command centers, and depots of arms and military equipment have been established, and foreign troops began to be deployed on an actually permanent basis (periodic rotations do not make any difference in this respect). The scale of such activities continues to grow and is calling into question the viability of the agreements sealed in the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act.

"The leaders of the Alliance have broken off the professional military dialogue. In parallel, an unprecedented campaign on discrediting the daily activities of the Russian armed forces has been launched. A recent example is Western hysteria over the West-2017 Russia-Belarus exercises.

"To sum up, the main reason for the deterioration of European security is not the lack of instruments of confidence- and security-building measures but rather NATO's move to confrontation. It now declares that the presence of foreign troops near our borders is the only security guarantee. We consider the discourse that these deployments are 'strictly defensive in character' and 'limited in scale' to be questionable. We cannot ignore how members of this 'defensive' bloc have repeatedly used armed force to the detriment of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of certain states in Europe (Yugoslavia) and beyond (Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc). We also remember how concerned the United States was when we had our training brigade in Cuba.

"Now with regard to confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs), the Alliance's current policy and military practice are not compatible with the proposals to improve or renovate them. Current complaints about the alleged 'inadequacy' of existing measures miss the mark. Russia is already the state inspected by the OSCE the most.

"At the same time, the CSBM tools have been badly compromised by the Alliance itself. For example, after they were used in 2014, Western countries were unable to identify any unusual military activity and destabilizing concentration of forces in areas adjacent to Ukraine. However, despite this, groundless accusations against us continued.

Mazur: 'NATO Countries Are Unwilling To Limit Their Freedom Of Action, Or To Discuss Conventional Arms Control In Europe. Without This, It Is Impossible To Modernize The 2011 Vienna Document'

"We noted the contemptuous attitude on the part of the NATO members and their 'like-minded' supporters to their obligations in the sphere of CSBMs [confidence and security building measures]. For example, under a far-fetched pretext unrelated to the Open Skies Treaty, Georgia not only closed its sky for observation flights with the participation of Russia, but also blocked the possibility of holding any open skies missions. In turn, Ukraine has been conducting military activities on its territory for four years now with the participation of up to 90,000 people and massive amounts of equipment, without providing the notifications required by the Vienna document and failing to invite observers to the area. The transparency measures advertised by Kiev cannot replace its implementation.

"In this way, NATO countries themselves and their closest partners have devalued the significance of the CSBM tools many times over. This begs the question: Why should they be modernized at all then?

"Sometimes we hear that additional CSBMs are allegedly needed to prevent accidental run-ins between the forces of Russia and NATO countries. However, to do so, withdrawing the Alliance's troops and equipment away from our borders would be enough.

"To create proper conditions for discussing the CSBMs, the Alliance must cease building up its activity on the eastern flank, and then scale it down. Talks on military security issues require a favorable and predictable environment. As such, the commitment of all participating States to refrain from any steps to change the levels, configurations and deployments of forces was the key pre-requisite for launching and negotiating the adaptation of the CFE Treaty (1996-1999).

"Today, NATO countries are unwilling to limit their freedom of action, or to discuss conventional arms control in Europe. Without this, it is impossible to modernize the 2011 Vienna document.

"Russia is still committed to faithfully complying with its obligations in the sphere of building confidence and security. In addition, we welcome the practice of providing voluntary information about exercises and surprise inspections and daily activities of the armed forces. Russia's Defense Ministry is using a variety of channels to notify its partners about surprise inspections and exercises. They are covered in detail on the Defense Ministry's online resources, as well as at numerous specialized briefings, including with the participation of NATO countries' military attaches. We will continue to inform our partners about exercises on our territory below the thresholds of modifiable military activities, and also invite military attachés of foreign states to attend them as observers.

"With regard to upgrading the 2011 Vienna document, this issue may be reviewed after restoring confidence and reducing tensions.

"We believe that in the context of the Europe-wide political process, as the situation de-escalates and military contacts are expanded, it would be possible to discuss measures to control conventional arms in Europe.

"We call upon our partners to unconditionally fulfill their obligations and to create a favorable atmosphere for further joint work here in Vienna. We believe they have something to think about and decide on their priorities. Is it to contain Russia or maintain a dialogue with it, including on conventional arms control in Europe and CSBMs? Sitting on two chairs is not an option here."

(Mid.ru, June 28, 2018)