Russia: US Withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty Would Undermine Its European Vassals’ Security

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MOSCOW – Washington’s hints at potential pullout from the Open Skies Treaty – one of the few remaining arms control mechanisms – proves that it couldn’t care less about the security of its vassal states, Russia’s deputy foreign minister believes.

Signed in 1992 by the US, Russia and 32 other states, the Open Skies Agreement remains one of the few arms control accords still in force after the US left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. It allows the signatories to conduct unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the territories of other parties to the treaty. Now Washington is mulling pulling out of it as well – and such an outcome, while hardly surprising, would be regrettable, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko, said.

“Americans have declared that almost all arms control mechanisms fail to meet their interests. This is a road to nowhere,” he added.

If the US does leave the treaty, Russia will be ready for it and will act on the basis of its national interests, the high-ranking diplomat stated to Russia’s Kommersant business daily, adding that such development would be yet another blow to European security clearly showing that the US treats its European allies as mere vassals.

“Washington… forces them to buy US weapons and seeks to make them buy American gas instead of Russian while imposing sanctions against them and leaving treaties that are of critical importance to the Europeans,” Grushko said.

Europe, in turn, lacks political will, according to Grushko, and it’s not exactly clear whether it is ready to finally raise its voice in defense of its own interests. Washington has never officially raised the possibility of pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty at an international level. Yet, some parts of the US establishment started talking about it over the past months.

In October, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Eliot Engel (D-New York) voiced his alarm about reports that President Donald Trump wants to abandon the agreement. Engel denounced such plans as a “blow” to America’s interests and a “gift” to Russia. Yet, he also drew attention to “some treaty implementation concerns regarding Russia” and expressed his support for “the restrictions put in place on Russian flights over the United States”.

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