Photo Information

A Norwegian helicopter lands near a dock in Soreisa, Norway, to deliver inspectors from Belarus during Cold Response 14, March 17, to evaluate the U.S. Marine component of the exercise. The inspection during Cold Response 14 is conducted under the auspices of the Vienna Document, which obligates signatories from more than 50 nation States to exchange information in regards to size, structure, training and equipment of its armed forces as well as related defense policy, doctrines to build multilateral transparency, trust, cooperation and confidence.

Photo by Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda

International confidence, security building above Arctic Circle

19 Mar 2014 | Sgt. Tatum Vayavananda

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has existed since 1975 and developed the Vienna Document, one of many, which requires participating international States to share information on their military forces, equipment and defense planning to maintain international confidence and trust. One way this happens is through military inspections of training exercises like Cold Response 14. 

“The inspection is under the auspice of the Vienna Document, which is politically binding on the signatories,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Cohen, an inspection liaison from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. 

Belarusian inspectors requested information for U.S. Marine forces participating in the exercise, to include the activities and composition of various Marine units, including 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and inspected the site of an amphibious offload of Marines from a Dutch naval vessel earlier in the morning. 

“It invites other countries to come in and observe those [military activities] … the purpose is openness and transparency along with confidence and security building measures,” he added. 

Vienna Document 2011 contains signatories from more than 50 nations that have adopted the Document on Confidence and Security Building Measures. 

Agreements like this play a substantial role in a multilateral process initiated by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. The process aims to undertake effective and concrete actions to make progress in strengthening the confidence and security of the signatories and in achieving disarmament, so “as to give effect and expression to the duty of the participating States to refrain from the threat or use of force in their mutual relations as well as in their international relations,” according to the Vienna Document. 

Under an inspection, the inspecting party has the right to travel to an area they’ve identified they want to see to ensure there is no unreported military activity. Observed variances include: equipment used, training being conducted, speaking to participating servicemembers, and unimpeded access of the identified area as long as the inspection does not disrupt training evolutions.

“It’s a demonstration of good will between the different signatories. The [Vienna Document] is cooperative in nature,” said Cohen. 

Exchanges of military information can include; verification of compliance with agreed commitments, such as notification of prior military activities, as well as different variants of military cooperation. 

According to the Vienna Document, participating States will anually exchange information in regards to size, structure, training and equipment of its armed forces as well as related defense policy, doctrines, budgets based on national practice and providing the background for a dialogue among the participating States.

The goals is to reduce the risk of conflict while increasing trust among participating nation states and contribute to greater openness and transparency in the field of military planning and military activities. 

“For this exercise, the inspection was announced to Norway and they are responsible for escorting them,” said Cohen. “We are here as liaisons for U.S. forces and we are here to assist the Norwegian escort team.” 

Encouraging regional and bilateral measures that build trust, the Vienna Document contains mechanisms to prevent or decrease tensions and to reduce the risk of unusual military situations that could cause tensions. Participating states undertake approximately 90 inspections and 45 evaluation visits each year, according to the OSCE website.

Marine Corps Forces Europe & Africa