Statement by the delegation of Belarus at the Meeting convened by the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office, 14 February 202214.02.2022
Meeting convened by the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office as requested by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia under Vienna Document Chapter III
Vienna, February 14, 2022
Statement by the delegation of Belarus
Participation of the Belarusian delegation in this meeting should not be construed as support for enacting with regard to Belarus the mechanism for consultation and cooperation to discuss unusual military activities provided for under para. 16 of Chapter III of the Vienna Document.
Our presence here demonstrates that Belarus honours the letter and spirit of the Vienna Document and is ready to engage in a mutually respectful dialogue.
We are disappointed that our distinguished Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian colleagues have chosen this path of action, that leads us nowhere.
The mechanism laid out in Chapter III originally appeared in the Vienna Document 1990, two years before the creation of the Forum for Security Co-operation, that provided a platform for discussion on all issues related to military security and confidence-building. It was enacted several times in 1991, then once in 1999, three times in 2008, and then several times in 2014 and 2021.
In 1999, it was Belarus that attempted to invoke the mechanism of the then Chapter II of the Vienna Document 1994, sending requests to a number of OSCE Participating States in connection with the military action that NATO had launched against Yugoslavia in violation of international law and without UN Security Council approval. Unfortunately, we were never able to obtain the necessary information, and a number of our requests were ignored. Moreover, for some reason, our partners to whom the request was addressed had a negative attitude towards this move, despite the fact that we took our steps in full compliance with the letter of the Vienna Document. Even then, questions began to arise about the effectiveness of this mechanism.
In 2008, when Georgia and the Russian Federation activated this mechanism, there were several meetings organised under para. 16.2 of the Vienna Document and a number of joint FSC-PC meetings. In 2017 and 2021, the mechanism was activated in relation to the situation in Ukraine. All these efforts have not borne any fruit. The accusatory rhetoric and tone of the discussions have only increased tensions at the political level. Thus, the history of attempts to activate this instrument showed that it did not bring any benefit and did not contribute to restoring trust, but rather led to further escalation of the situation.
Today, we state once again that Belarus does not engage in any significant military activity requiring prior notification and does not consider it justified to invoke the Vienna document mechanism.
Belarus undertook a number of practical steps to increase transparency and confidence-building with regard to the joint Belarussian-Russian military exercise “Union Resolve-2022”:
1) The delegation of Belarus delivered two statements on the exercise at the FSC on January 27, 2022 and February 9, 2022.
2) Briefings by the Head of the Department for International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces – First Deputy Minister of Defence of Belarus were held for military attachés and representatives of the media. Representatives of Lithuania and Latvia as well as the military attaches accredited to the Ministry of Defence of Belarus were invited to observe the exercise. We have yet received no reply to this good – will invitation. More than 150 representatives of the media from 17 states are accredited to cover the exercise. On February 12 – 19, the Ministry of Defence of Belarus is planning three press tours to the areas of the military exercise. Press releases, information materials, photo and video information is posted daily on the Ministry of Defence's portal and Telegram channel.
3) Detailed information on this event was provided in notification CBM/BY/22/0003/F41/O on February 8, 2022. Additional information was provided in notification F11 CBM/BY/22/0008/F41/O in reply to Lithuania on February 12, 2022.
Today, we are not going to repeat the substance of the notifications transmitted to all participating States.
We emphasise that Belarus was not obliged to take these steps because the exercises were below the thresholds for notification under the Vienna Document. One can hardly imagine such transparency with regard to non-notifiable military activities on the part of our partners.
Nevertheless, despite all these steps, our distinguished colleagues opted for deliberate politicisation of the issue. We got the impression that regardless of the substance of our answer the next step had already been predetermined by our partners. It is proved by their instant public reaction to our response. Is it real diplomacy when we learn about our partners' reaction from the media, with quotes of our own reply? Does it contribute to dialogue in good faith? Does it help decrease mistrust and tension? We strongly doubt that it does.
Recently Belarus could have also raised the issue of what could indeed be characterised as a significant unusual military activity in the immediate vicinity of the border of Belarus by a neighbouring state. It should be noted that the “Union Resolve-2022” exercise does not take place on the borders with Lithuania and Latvia. We could have engaged the mechanism provided for in Chapter III. However, we prefer to deal with such issues in a politicking-free, calm and professional manner.
In conclusion, we would like to reiterate that military exercises are one of the basic elements in the training of troops of any sovereign state. A significant number of exercises are held in the OSCE area, including in close proximity to the borders of Belarus. The deliberate distortion of the situation around certain military exercises and hostile, provocative and inflammatory rhetoric will only increase mistrust and tension and could lead to escalation of the political and military tension.
In this regard, we once again urge our colleagues to refrain from escalating the situation around the Belarusian-Russian exercise.