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US' Open Skies Treaty withdrawal to deal a blow to security in Europe, says diplomat

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko stressed that this move will also damage the interests of its allies in Europe

MOSOW, May 21./TASS/. The US’ pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty will damage the system of military security in Europe, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told TASS on Thursday.

"Our position is absolutely clear and is invariable - the withdrawal of the US from this treaty will come as yet another blow to the system of military security in Europe, which is already weakened by the previous moves by the administration, in particular by the withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and prior to that - by NATO’s refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe," Grushko said.

This move will also damage the interests of its allies in Europe, he stressed. "This move will not only worsen the situation with strategic stability and military security in Europe, but apparently it will also harm the interests of the US allies that are parties to this European agreement," the diplomat added.

Russia has not received an official notification from the US about its pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty as of yet, Grushko said.

On Thursday, Associated Press reported citing sources that the White House had already notified international partners that it was pulling out of the treaty. Earlier, the New York Times said referring to its sources that President Donald Trump intended to notify Moscow about its decision on Friday. The White House has made no official comments on this information.

About the treaty

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). It was drafted with Moscow’s active participation. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the treaty is a major instrument of strengthening trust and security. 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. Now, the treaty has more than 30 signatory states. Russia ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001.

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.