OSCE parliamentarians consider the importance of military transparency and confidence-building measures at virtual meeting

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Richard HudsonRichard HudsonCOPENHAGEN, 14 June 2021 – To build inter-parliamentary dialogue on key security concerns facing the OSCE area, the Parliamentary Assembly today held a webinar focused on promoting predictability in military affairs and enhancing implementation of the OSCE’s confidence-building measures such as the 2011 Vienna Document.

Featuring remarks by Richard Hudson, Chair of the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Beatrice Heuser, Chair of International Relations of the University of Glasgow, Robin Mossinkoff, Senior FSC Support Officer of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, and Ian Anthony, Director of SIPRI’s European Security Programme, today’s parliamentary web dialogue explored the history and political dimension of military information exchange and its role in building a peaceful OSCE region in which all participating States fully implement their OSCE commitments.

Opening the meeting, Congressman Hudson (United States) recalled the concerns expressed by the OSCE PA in 2019. That year, Hudson noted, the OSCE PA adopted the Luxembourg Declaration regretting the general deterioration in confidence-building agreements and stressing the need for all sides to recommit to the preservation of effective arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.

“Today’s webinar should be seen as a continuation of the concern that we collectively expressed in our 2019 Declaration, and of our intent to do something about it,” Hudson said. He highlighted the continued relevance of the confidence-building measures contained in the Vienna Document and expressed hope that it can be effectively modernized to address the OSCE region’s most pressing security challenges.

Beatrice HeuserBeatrice HeuserProf. Heuser provided some history of information-sharing commitments as well as the current state of their application by OSCE participating States. In her presentation, she highlighted historical examples of governments using military exercises as cover for preparations of actual offensive operations, noting that this history has led to increased insecurity and distrust. Countering this distrust, she said, is the fundamental purpose of creating greater transparency in military affairs, which helps overcome suspicious thinking and confirmation bias.

In his presentation, Mossinkoff explained the OSCE commitments regarding military transparency and implementation. He focused on issues such as the need for participating States to report on military organization, designation and subordination; major types of weapons and equipment systems; and planned increases in personnel strength. The Vienna Document, he noted, has a high-level of implementation and serves as a basis for evaluation visits, which further builds confidence and transparency, providing information on medium- and long-term planning regarding defence policy, force planning, budgets, and training. The Vienna Document, he said, enables governments to ask for clarifications and further information from their international partners, thereby serving as a useful basis for dialogue.

Robin MossinkoffRobin MossinkoffStressing that modernization of the Vienna Document should more properly be thought of as adaptation, Mossinkoff offered possible practical reforms such as lowering the thresholds for notifications and providing more briefings in the OSCE’s Form for Security Co-operation. Ultimately, what is needed is putting the rebuilding of trust on the agenda and moving away from zero-sum strategic thinking.

Dr. Anthony said that there is a trend toward military build-ups across the OSCE area, with increased defence spending and military thinking moving up the hierarchy of concerns across Europe. Military expenditures in some countries are expected to have a transformational impact, Anthony said, with an associated risk being the lack of clarity on the differences between muscular competition and conflict. He urged governments to consider what they are willing to accept in terms of risk.

In the discussion, questions were raised about the areas in which the Vienna Document has been successful and unsuccessful, to which it was responded that the very existence of the document is a tangible confidence-building measure. The importance of the document can be seen by looking at other areas of the world in which there is no such confidence-building measures and where the lack of transparency in military affairs leads to heightened tensions. In terms of improvements, it was emphasized that the way that information on military matters is used could be enhanced. In particular, the OSCE could pay more attention to how information is relayed to governments.

Participants also raised the importance of coupling arms control with confidence-building measures, as well as how to ensure military transparency in the context of the new realities of hybrid warfare in the OSCE area. The need to comprehensively address all stages of the conflict cycle was also emphasized as vital in ensuring effectiveness.

OSCE PA President Peter Lord Bowness offered remarks, noting that the OSCE’s work on confidence-building deserves to be more widely appreciated. In his remarks, OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella said that the OSCE is a unique institution with an effective toolbox, but there needs to be more political will to implement it in full.

To watch the full video of the event, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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