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US wants to limit Russia’s use of new technologies under Open Skies Treaty, expert says

Kimball said that regardless of the position of US lawmakers, the leadership of Russia and the U.S. should resume direct and regular talks on the Open Skies Treaty, the extension of the new START

WASHINGTON, August 16. /TASS./ The US is trying to limit Russia's use of modern technologies as part of the Open Skies Treaty, Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association (ACA) told TASS.

He referred to the new version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDDA) which was drafted on the initiative of several congressmen.

According to Kimball, the U.S. government is not suspending its implementation of the Open Skies Treaty, which is important for transparency and confidence-building for the U.S. and its NATO partners and for Russia.

However, there is an ongoing dispute between Republican members of Congress about whether to upgrade the aging U.S. reconnaissance aircraft (OC-135s) that are used for U.S. Open Skies flights, the expert said.

"Some Nebraska members of Congress, including Sen. Deb Fischer want Congress to approve spending for two new aerial photography jets used to fly missions under the Open Skies treaty, while House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas opposes such funding for the new jets or for upgrades to the U.S. technology used by the aircraft," Kimball said.

According to him, "the language in the law on defense spending is designed to restrict Russia’s ability to use more advanced technology, as allowed for by the treaty, as a way of showing displeasure with Russia’s implementation of the treaty."

Kimball said that regardless of the position of US lawmakers, the leadership of Russia and the U.S. should resume direct and regular talks on the Open Skies Treaty, the extension of the new START. According to him, Moscow and Washington should also discuss options to address U.S. and Russian concerns about non-compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to ensure that there are effective and verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear forces and to help avoid misconceptions about the movement of military forces in Europe.

The Arms Control Association headed by Kimball was founded in 1971. It is based in Washington and is one the most well-known non-governmental organization advocating for strengthening of international non-proliferation regimes and disarmament.

On Tuesday, a US Department of State official told TASS that the U.S. set to keep implementing the multilateral Open Skies Treaty.

"The United States is not suspending its participation in the Open Skies Treaty," the official said. "To the contrary, the United States remains committed to continued implementation of Treaty, as demonstrated by the authorization for the recapitalization of our Open Skies aircraft and our ongoing efforts to modernize our fleet."

"The FY 19 NDAA that the President signed into law yesterday requires the executive branch to fulfill certain reporting and certification requirements prior to the expenditure of some funding related to U.S. Open Skies implementation. Previous NDAAs contained similar requirements," the official continued. "The United States remains committed to continued implementation of the Treaty."

About Open Skies Treaty

Developed with Moscow’s active participation, the Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002. It currently has 34 member states. The treaty establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Observation flights are made over the territories of the United States, Canada, European countries, and Russia. The main purposes of the open skies regime are to develop transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with the existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations within the scope of the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other relevant international organizations. Subsequently, it is contemplated to apply the open skies regime to new fields, such as environmental protection.

In practical terms, the treaty allows signatory states to perform observations flights over any part of the observed state party’s territory to monitor military activities in conformity with the agreed quotas of such missions. The treaty regulates observation flights procedures, establishes a mechanism of control over its observance, sets requirements to the aircraft and observation equipment.

Washington has been accusing Moscow for several years of violating several provisions of Open Skies Treaty. Russia also makes claims to the U.S. related to the implementation of the agreement. Last year, Washington announced the imposition of certain restrictions on Russian observation flights over the US territory within the Open Skies Treaty. Moscow soon came with tit-for-tat response.