MOSCOW/WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Russian Federation will be forced to take countermeasures if the United States of America withdraws from the Open Skies Treaty, the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control Director, Vladimir Ermakov, said in an interview with the Sputnik news agency, slamming Washington’s claims about Russia violating the deal as groundless.
Reports about Washington’s intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which enables its 34 participants to fly over other countries’ territories to check on compliance with disarmament agreements, first emerged in October last year.
“The US has not made any official statement on its plans to leave the Open Skies Treaty. However, we regret its possible intention to do so over Russia’s alleged violations. If Washington decides to abandon the deal, we will be forced to provide an adequate response. We believe it is too early to discuss publicly what measures we could implement,” Ermakov said.
He reaffirmed Moscow’s call to save the Treaty on Open Skies as “one of the few remaining pillars of European security architecture”.
“We have communicated our stance to our US colleagues. Unfortunately, the US keep repeating their traditional and absolutely groundless claims of Russia’s alleged non-compliance with the treaty, instead of thoroughly analyzing the situation and ways to preserve the agreement,” the official argued.
“The attempts to put the blame on Russia are counterproductive and are beneath criticism. We also have many questions regarding the US’ and other NATO member states’ implementation of the Open Skies Treaty. However, we prefer not discussing the withdrawal, but looking for decisions capable of removing the mutual concerns together,” Ermakov concluded.
Signed on March 24, 1992, right after the Cold War, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities. The main goal of the treaty is to improve transparency and mutual trust between the signatories. It includes all members of NATO and former members of the Warsaw Pact.