Russia has no reason to remain party to Open Skies Treaty after US withdrawal - expert

Dmitry Suslov

MOSCOW, May 22. /TASS/: There is no reason for Russia to remain a party to the Open Skies Treaty after the US withdrawal since this gives Washington an advantage in obtaining data on Russia’s Armed Forces, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics National Research University and expert at the Valdai International Discussion Club Dmitry Suslov told TASS.

Earlier AFP reported that US President Donald Trump had announced that the US would leave the Open Skies Treaty.

"It is not advisable for Russia to keep its own participation in the agreement after the United States pulls out of this agreement, because European countries of NATO within the framework of this agreement will still be able to fly over Russian soil," Suslov said. "If Russia remains a party to the agreement, the zero-sum game will go on, because the United States will continue receiving information on the state and deployment of the Russian Armed Forces from its European allies in NATO remaining in the agreement, while Russian planes will not be able to fly over the United States. Certainly, Russia will not receive relevant information about the US army from the Europeans. "

According to the expert, the US decision on the withdrawal from the treaty would further escalate military and political situation in the Euro-Atlantic region and worsen ties between Russia and NATO.

"The Open Skies Treaty was one of a few remaining elements of ensuring predictability and transparency," Suslov said. "Under this deal, the parties were able to perform flights and receive trustworthy information on the state and deployment of each other’s forces."

The US withdrawal from the treaty is part and parcel of Washington’s policy towards gaining more freedom in actions on the international arena, according to the expert. The Republicans treat rather negatively all deals limiting US freedom in the military field. This policy of the Republicans was formed in the mid-1990s and now amid confrontation with China and Russia this idea only consolidated.

"In the US, at least among the establishment within the Republican party, the idea prevails that any limiting agreements prevent the US from stepping up its might for defeating Russia and China. In order to gain victory in new conformation, they need to untie their hands at maximum," the expert noted.

The US is not hiding that it uses the threat of an arms race as an element of pressure on Moscow and Beijing. "If a new arms race begins, it will end for Russia like for the Soviet Union, as the Americans think, and Russia will be exhausted, will lose its blood and will collapse."

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 tool 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.

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