NATO allies urged Russia on Friday to comply with the 1992 Open Skies treaty in the hope that Washington might reverse its a decision to ditch the defence agreement.
Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the US decision to quit the agreement will not come into effect for six months, leaving Moscow time to change course.
US to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty if Russia does not mend its ways
“All NATO allies are in full compliance with all provisions of the treaty,” Stoltenberg said.
“Russia has for many years imposed flight restrictions inconsistent with the treaty, including flight limitations, over Kaliningrad and restricting flights in Russia near its border with Georgia.
“The United States has declared Russia in violation of the treaty and has now announced its intention to withdraw in six months consistent with treaty provisions.
Trump has decided to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure they are not preparing for military action. @SangerNYT https://t.co/F4hrhUH5Ol
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) May 21, 2020
“The US has declared that it may however, reconsider its withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance. NATO allies are engaged with Russia to seek Russia’s return to compliance at the earliest date possible.”
US making “unacceptable demands” over Open Skies Treaty: Russia
Russia will continue to observe a post-Cold War surveillance treaty even if the United States pulls out, officials said on Friday while accusing Washington of sowing discord and making “unacceptable” demands.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Washington has put forth unacceptable demands for Moscow to meet or it will pull out in six months.
“The conditions the US has presented are absolutely unacceptable… they are senseless, they are unfounded,” Ryabkov told a press conference, though adding that Russia is ready to “continue dialogue”.
US announcement of withdrawal ‘surprise’: Russia
US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday he planned to pull out of the accord, the latest in a series of US withdrawals from major international agreements.
Washington accused Russia of failing to follow the treaty’s rules by blocking flights — claims denied by Moscow.
He said Trump’s announcement was a “surprise” and accused Washington of “sowing discord and uncertainty among its own allies.”
The only thing the US wants, he said, is “for us to stand at attention and then march in the direction they point.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko promised Russia would continue to honour its commitments.
“As long as the treaty is in force, we intend to fully follow all the rights and obligations that apply to us from this treaty,” he told RIA Novosti news agency.
Grushko said Russia was “acting on the basis that all the other countries will act in the same way” and “take a conscientious approach to the obligations of parties to this treaty”.
The Russian diplomat said the US pullout would damage European security and harm the interests of US allies.
China urges USA to exit ‘Cold War mentality’
China, which is not a party to the treaty, expressed “deep regret” over the US move, calling it a “display of the United States’ entrenched Cold War mentality”.
Read more: Russia & China: Closer than ever before
The withdrawal “will have a negative impact on the international arms control and disarmament process,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday.
As long as Putin and Xi are in charge of Russia and China relations between them will improve and relation with US will deteriorate irrespective of Trump or Biden; faster with Trump, slower with Biden. pic.twitter.com/Vvn3Q1LIyB
— 🇪🇺 🇲🇨🇨🇭Dan Popescu 🇫🇷🇮🇹🇷🇴 (@PopescuCo) May 3, 2020
Open Skies Treaty: A theatre of US-Russia war
The Open Skies Treaty was agreed just after the Cold War to allow signatories to avoid nasty surprises or unfounded suspicions by monitoring rival militaries.
It was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002, allowing 35 signatory countries, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed surveillance flights over each other’s territory.
The Open Skies treaty allows its 34 full members across Europe, Canada and the former Soviet Union to carry out unarmed surveillance flights over other member countries at short notice.
The treaty, which was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002, is seen as an important tool to prevent conflicts by allowing nations to monitor weapon build-ups.
Moscow and Washington have often accused each other of breaching its terms, and last year President Donald Trump suggested the United States might leave the treaty altogether.
That threat now seems likely to come to fruition, despite the dismay of some of Washington’s European allies, who remain attached to the treaty as a core element of their continent’s security architecture.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk