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Russia’s attempts to undermine OSCE will fail

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Matt Baugh OBE is Director, Euro-Atlantic Security at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), responsible for NATO and security policy issues across the Euro-Atlantic area.

“I would like to start by reiterating the UK’s unwavering support for Ukraine. I would also like to pay tribute to North Macedonia for their work chairing the OSCE this year under such challenging circumstances.”~ UK statement to OSCE

By Matt Baugh

LONDON, England – When we convened in this forum last year, the European security situation had fundamentally changed. Through its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia – enabled by Belarus – shamelessly violated core OSCE principles and the UN Charter.

Principles on the non-use of force, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Tragically, as we meet today, the situation has not improved. More lives lost, more people displaced, more infrastructure destroyed, and more environmental damage needlessly inflicted.

We continue to confront Russian aggression repeatedly in this room, challenging the lies by which the illegal invasion was justified. The world need not take only our word. Putin’s own henchman confirmed that the invasion was built on a lie.

My foreign secretary, speaking to parliament on Monday, highlighted Prigozhin’s words: “There was nothing out of the ordinary before 24 February 2022.”

Prigozhin himself said that Russia’s defence ministry was “trying to deceive both the president and the nation … that there was incredible aggression from the Ukrainian side with NATO support ready to attack Russia.” This is important. The Russian government’s lies have been exposed by one of Putin’s own.

Russia continues to show contempt for the OSCE and its work. Not least as we meet today, as a chair’s conference, after Russia blocked the adoption of the annual security review conference agenda. More broadly, Russia continues to weaponise the OSCE’s consensus principle, obstructing the work of the organisation by delaying critical decisions on its budget and mission mandates.

Russia also seems intent on dismantling the architecture of confidence and security-building mechanisms. After withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies shortly before it launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has now declared its intention to withdraw from the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. We will discuss this in more detail at the Conference of States Parties tomorrow, but this is further evidence of Russia’s willingness to sabotage mechanisms, decades in the making, for its own short-term gain.

Last week, together with Ukraine, the UK co-hosted the Ukraine Recovery Conference – which sent a clear message that a community of nations and organisations stand with our Ukrainian friends as they face this immediate threat. We are particularly grateful to the secretary-general for her participation. For our own part, the UK is committed to providing the capabilities that Ukraine requires, whether long-term economic and fiscal support, or our support for its own defence.

Sanctions imposed by the UK and a range of international partners are also having deep and damaging consequences for Putin’s ability to wage its war – catalysing their longest recession for over 25 years.

The UK will stand by the OSCE. Despite Russia’s irresponsible and hostile attitude towards this organisation, the OSCE continues to demonstrate its considerable value. From the early warning provided by the Vienna Document to the most recent invocations of the Moscow Mechanism. From Central Asia to the Western Balkans, the OSCE’s presence on the ground shows the value of the organisation every day.

The Forum for Security Cooperation continues to hold important discussions on thematic priorities focused on Ukraine, including Children & Armed Conflict for the very first time. And earlier this year, 46 States endorsed the update to the annual voluntary questionnaire on Women, Peace & Security under the Code of Conduct (on Politico-Military Aspects of Security) – the first since its creation in 2011. I say this to prove – as if we needed it – the OSCE is both valuable – and valued.

As Europe’s regional security organisation, the OSCE has decades of experience supporting States to manage and resolve conflicts. Experience that can help Ukraine rebuild and recover. A toolbox, missions and instruments that continue to matter to the wider region too. Notably in Georgia, Moldova, Nagorno-Karabakh, the Western Balkans and Central Asia – including managing the situation in Afghanistan.

Chair, Russia’s attempts to undermine the OSCE will fail. The OSCE is unique. The OSCE continues to matter; and, with our support, it will endure.

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