Press Gaggle Following the OSCE Special Permanent Council Meeting on Ukraine

Press Availability
Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Vienna, Austria
March 3, 2014

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Good afternoon everybody. I’m delighted to be here at the OSCE at this high-level meeting.

ON THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE: there should be no question where the United States stands on this matter. President Obama has made very clear that we condemn in strongest terms the violations on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by forces from the Russian Federation. We reject these breaches of international law and Russia’s own obligations under international law, under the Helsinki Final Act, and with regard to its undertakings directly with the government of Ukraine. The United States strongly supports and welcomes the transitional government in Ukraine; we are committed to helping this government and the people of Ukraine restore stability, restore unity, and restore political and economic health to their country on the way to free and fair elections in May as called. As you know, Secretary Kerry will be in Ukraine tomorrow to underscore these messages and to bring concrete support from the United States.

We have made clear – President Obama has made clear to President Putin – that even as we reject and condemn the action they have taken, that there is way out of this situation. The way out of this situation is through direct dialogue with the sovereign government of Ukraine, the pull back of forces, the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to make use of the tools of international organizations like the UN, like the OSCE, to address any concerns that anyone may have with regard to the current situation in Ukraine.

I was very gratified by the session that we had, to see that so many of the tools that the OSCE has are going to be deployed in Ukraine as soon as possible. As you probably know, the HCNM is already in Ukraine, the Chair’s Representative Ambassador Guldimann will go tomorrow; today there was an announcement that the OSCE will begin deploying tonight monitors to Ukraine who can provide neutral facts, make a true assessment of the situation on the ground. We hope that these monitors will be permitted to travel to Crimea where they are needed most and also to key cities in eastern Ukraine, and begin to provide reassurance and a true honest assessment of what is going on and to provide some protection and comfort for the Ukrainian people.

Over the longer term, we believe that the OSCE should launch a full-scale monitoring mission. We hope there will be consensus for that here. There was a proposal made by Canada which the United States strongly supports. This monitoring mission can go first and foremost to Crimea to de-escalate tensions and can provide an out for the Russian Federation if it so chooses. It can pull its forces back to base and have them replaced by independent monitors from the OSCE and from the UN.

Over the longer term, this organization can also help the Ukrainian people with the other challenges that it has – first and foremost, to have free and fair elections. There was an announcement today that ODIHR will begin deploying its first team to Ukraine. The United States will strongly support all of these missions with personnel and with finances. The OSCE has also taken a decision to begin deploying police experts and others who can help with the normalization of the security situation not only on the streets in Kyiv and key cities but also in Crimea if Russia would allow that to happen.

So again, I want to stress that all of the issues that may be of concern to any nation and to the Ukrainian people, whether it is the condition of national minorities, whether it’s security and stability, whether it is the capability for free and fair elections, whether it is independent observation – all of those missions can be supported by the OSCE. That is why we are here today. We call on Russia to make the right choice: pull back your forces, deploy and support international monitors to Crimea and to eastern Ukraine and begin a real and productive dialogue with your neighbor in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian government support all of these things, and the United States stands with them in those requests.

QUESTION: (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: As you know, President Obama spoke to President Putin two days ago; Secretary Kerry will see Minister Lavrov in the coming days in Europe; Secretary Hagel, our Secretary of Defense, spoke to the Minister of Defense Mr. Shoigu yesterday or the day before, those contacts continue. The Vice President is endeavoring to speak to Prime Minister Medvedev; so we are using all of our channels of dialogue to make the case to Russia that it doesn’t have to be this way, that it should make a 21st century choice to settle its issues politically and through negotiations, not with military force.

QUESTION: China has declared its support for the action of Russia – is this a reason for us to be more nervous(inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: I haven’t seen the statements by China, but I cannot imagine that it is in the interest of the Chinese government to support a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state. Other questions?

QUESTION: (inaudible) OSCE missions (inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Well again, under the authorities of the Chairman in Office here, the Swiss Chairman, a number of advance teams are being deployed today, both on the human rights side, on the observation and investment side, and on the election side – it is up to Russia to make the right choice. The body here is beginning to scope what a permanent monitoring mission will be. Based on the conversation in there it will be a very, very broad consensus for that monitoring mission. We call on Russia to join that consensus, make the right choice and pull back its forces.

QUESTION: Do you see any softening by Russia (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: When President Obama and President Putin spoke, our President made clear that we would hope that we could have a good conversation here, and President Putin did not close the door to that, so we will keep working here because that is the right course of action.

Thank you very much.