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Ukraine initiated an inquiry through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Friday in an attempt to force Russia to explain its enormous army buildup along the border, after a similar move by the Baltic states against Belarus failed. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated on Twitter Friday that Kyiv has activated the OSCE Vienna Document’s “risk-reduction” mechanism, to which both Belarus and Russia are signatories. The procedure amounts to a request for information on a member nation’s military activity that other members consider to be dangerous.

According to OSCE guidelines, Moscow has till Sunday to react, but it’s doubtful Ukraine will get a substantial response to the one question Western diplomats have been asking themselves since the crisis began: What is Russian President Vladimir Putin up to these days? 

According to Kuleba, the Ukrainian government requested “full explanations on military activity in locations near to Ukrainian territory and in temporarily seized Crimea.” “We will continue to use all diplomatic tools to protect Ukraine’s security.” 

Kyiv used the Vienna Document method after Baltic states attempted to obtain information from Belarus on the ongoing Union Resolve 2022 exercise, which includes military training involving Russian and Belarusian forces.

 The Estonian government described Minsk’s reaction as “insufficient” on Friday. Baltic diplomats said Minsk’s missive claimed the exercise was too minor in scale to be subject to Vienna Document reporting obligations, giving the impression that President Alexander Lukashenko’s administration was uninterested in openness and trust building.

According to Alex Tiersky, a senior policy advisor at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States’ arm of the Vienna-based OSCE, a similar reaction is expected from Moscow. 

“Moscow’s menacing stance is designed to increase instability and unpredictability in order to obtain an edge, whether through diplomatic concessions or battlefield gains,” he told Defense News. “In this context, it would be exceedingly unexpected if the Kremlin — or authorities in Minsk — chose to deviate from previous precedent in order to satisfy either the letter or spirit of its OSCE-based transparency pledges, such as the Vienna Document.”

Nonetheless, Tiersky believes the diplomatic probes should be pursued. “Invoking these measures — and the inevitably duplicitous Russian responses that will inevitably follow — underscores the commitment of other OSCE states to using every tool at our disposal to seek a diplomatic solution, while also exposing the dishonesty of Russian rhetoric blaming others for escalation and aggression,” he said. 

Following the Belarusian reaction, the Baltic governments are set to meet next week to plan their future steps. Members may request additional consultations under the Vienna Document if they are dissatisfied with the risk-reduction request. 

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