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Russia to respond to US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty, says senior legislator

The chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky noted that in making the decision Moscow will be guided by the interests of its national security

MOSCOW, May 21./TASS/. Russia has a plan for responding to the US withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, in making the decision Moscow will be guided by the interests of its national security, the chairman of the State Duma (lower house) Committee for International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky, told journalists on Thursday.

"Of course, Russia has a plan for reacting to the US moves regarding the Open Skies Treaty, though the treaty is multilateral. I am confident that we will take a balanced decision in full conformity with the aims of defending national security," the legislator said.

He called detrimental Washington’s decision to pull out of the treaty. It "may put at risk the system of military security on the European continent," Slutsky said. "This will come as yet another step by the US administration towards ruining key arms control agreements, following the destruction of the INF Treaty," he stressed.

"The patterns are the same: unfounded accusations against Russia (which we haven’t seen as of yet, by the way) for violating provisions of the Open Skies Treaty with the simultaneous refusal to settle the same claims against them," the head of the international affairs committee said.

Russia "has never violated the treaty" unlike the US "which is simply keeping mum on numerous problems with the implementation of the Open Skies Treaty," he added. The real ‘added value’ of the treaty "will depend also on the reaction from the European allies of the US in NATO to statements from the US administration" as well as on whether they will follow in the footsteps of Washington," the legislator stressed.

The Trump administration said on Thursday that it would withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty.

The Open Skies’ main goals are to build transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations. The accord establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants.

For the past several years, Washington has been accusing Moscow of carrying out the accord in a selective manner and of violating some of its provisions. Russia has also put forward some objections regarding the way the United States has been implementing the agreement. In 2017, Washington imposed some restrictions on Russian observation flights over its territory. Moscow came up with a tit-for-tat response some time later.