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Russia vows response against attempts to limit its rights as Open Skies Treaty member

Russia will constantly assess the partners’ readiness to fully meet their commitments under the Treaty on Open Skies, the Foreign Ministry said

MOSCOW, July 8. /TASS/. Russia will take retaliatory measures if there are attempts to limit its rights as a party to the Treaty on Open Skies, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a comment on a conference of the member states to discuss the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the agreement.

"Russia will constantly assess the partners’ readiness to fully meet their commitments under the Treaty on Open Skies and search for mutually acceptable solutions to the emerging problems. If the attempts are made to limit the rights of Russia as a member state of the Treaty on Open Skies we will take retaliatory measures," the ministry said.

Russia’s further course in regard to the treaty will be based on the above mentioned estimates and the interests of security of the country and its allies, the ministry stated.

Most parties to the conference regretted the US decision, expressing hope that it would be reviewed. However, some countries understood Washington’s motives and called on Russia to "return to full compliance with the Treaty on Open Skies."

"Many stressed the need to iron out the problems of observing the treaty at the negotiating table, supported the effort in this direction and expressed readiness to actively participate in it. Obviously, the partners understand negative consequences of Washington’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies and they are concerned over this prospect," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the parties are not ready to take a more resolute position and give a principal assessment to the US administration’s steps and start a serious dialogue with Russia to settle mutual claims, according to the ministry. The parties prefer to focus on important but not key issues.

Unreliable US

Moscow also stresses that when making a decision on leaving the Treaty on Open Skies the US authorities disregarded the stance of their allies and other parties to the agreement and ignored the demands of their own legislators, many of which disagreed with them. Therefore, Russia has no grounds to believe in the US administration’s readiness to review its decision provided that its demands are met and "won’t beg the US to stay."

"The pullout from the Treaty on Open Skies will affect the US image as a reliable partner and it will be impossible to seriously view its calls for more transparency in the military field. They will lose the right to get the member states’ data obtained during the observation flights. The member states of the Treaty on Open Skies will have to consider a range of practical issues related to this step," the ministry said.

Russia’s counterclaims

Russia rebuffed Washington’s attempts to accuse it of violating the Treaty and drew up two documents "Treaty on Open Skies: Questions and Answers" and "US non-compliance with its commitments to the Treaty on Open Skies." At the conference, Sergei Ryzhkov, who heads the Defense Ministry’s department for control over implementing treaties, presented a detailed analysis into US violations.

"Russia called on partners of the agreement to work together in order to find a comprehensive settlement of mutual concerns. Of course, this is possible only if there is mutual respect for each other’s interests," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

US President Donald Trump declared on May 21 Washington was going to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, which provides for inspection flights over member countries’ territories to monitor military activities. He motivated this step by Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a written statement that the decision to withdraw from the treaty would come into effect in six months after May 22. Moscow denies these accusations saying it is committed to the treaty and puts forward counterclaims.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 in Helsinki by 23 member nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 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. The treaty establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Now, the treaty has more than 30 signatory states. Russia ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001.

On July 6, the delegates of the member-states of the Treaty on Open Skies held a video conference to discuss the impact of the United States’ withdrawal and the treaty’s future after that. Russia was represented at this event by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The senior diplomat said the sides failed to bring closer their positions at the meeting.