Moscow Vows Tough Response if Parties to Open Skies Treaty Share Data with U.S.


Russia will take tough response measures in case other parties to the Treaty on Open Skies share data with the United States after its withdrawal from the treaty and restrict Russia’s flights over U.S. facilities in Europe, Konstantin Gavrilov, Russia’s chief negotiator at the Vienna talks on military security and arms control, said on Monday, TASS reported.

“We learnt not long ago that Washington is indulging in behind-the-scenes games and demands its allies sign documents binding them to share materials of observation flights over Russia with the United States. The U.S. demands the Europeans bar Russia from making observation flights over U.S. military facilities in Europe. It is a blatant violation of the treaty. If the rest of the parties to the treaty go on a leash of the United States, we won’t hesitate to take tough response measures,” he said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel.

If Russia’s partners under the treaty want to ensure its viability, they should give guarantees that aerial survey data from their observation flights are classified and are note shared with thirds parties, Gavrilov stressed.

“We will spare no effort to ensure the strictest observance of the treaty’s provisions on non-sharing these data by the European partners. Today, we submitted a draft of an updated resolution of the Consultative Commission unequivocally banning any mention of actions [under the treaty],” he added.

If the decision is made by Washington to return to the Treaty on Open Skies, it will be done on basic rights and conditions of all member states, according to Gavrilov.

“In any case, the U.S. quit the treaty. If they decide to return to the treaty, they will do it, join it, on general basis with agreement and conditions of all member states,” he said.

“One of these conditions is recognizing and accepting all decisions that will be made by the Open Skies Consultative Commission without the U.S. participation,” Gavrilov said.

U.S. 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. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a written statement that the decision to withdraw from the treaty will come into effect in six months after May 22, i.e. on November 22. Moscow denies these accusations saying it is committed to the treaty and puts forward counterclaims.

On Sunday, Washington officially confirmed it was no longer party to the treaty. A statement to this effect was released by the U.S. Department of State.

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.