MOSCOW, October 10. /TASS/. Moscow won’t take any decisive action until reports about Washington’s plans to pull out of the Treaty on Open Skies are confirmed, but may provide an asymmetrical response in case of US withdrawal, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (the upper house of parliament) Defense and Security Committee Viktor Bondarev told TASS.
"These reports haven’t been confirmed yet and the US hasn’t yet moved from words to action, so Russia won’t take any decisive steps for now. If these reports are not fake news, they will be confirmed soon and it will be reasonable for us to provide an asymmetrical response," the senator said. "We gave a tit-for-tat response to US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because it was a bilateral document, but the Treaty on Open Skies was signed by 23 countries, so we won’t succumb to Washington’s trolling and will sacrifice neither regional nor global stability nor our friendly relations with constructive partners to American instigators," Bondarev added.
He pointed out that a short while back, Moscow had conducted observation flights over NATO countries in accordance with the Treaty, providing NATO members with an opportunity to fly over Russia.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that Washington would soon announce plans to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel in a letter to White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien earlier condemned the Trump administration’s alleged plans. "Withdrawal risks dividing the transatlantic alliance and would further undermine America’s reliability as a stable and predictable partner when it comes to European security," Engel pointed out. Meanwhile, senior Democratic lawmakers called on US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to abandon withdrawal plans.
Treaty on Open Skies
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in Helsinki on March 24, 1992, by the member-states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and went into force on January 1, 2002. The accord includes 34 countries, among them, most NATO members, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden and Finland. Russia ratified the Treaty on May 26, 2001. The purpose of the deal is to help build confidence between countries through the improvement of mechanisms to control military activities and compliance with arms control agreements.