NATO believes that Russia should roll back its “flight limitations over Kaliningrad, and restricting flights in Russia near its border with Georgia” and “return to full compliance of the [Open Skies] Treaty” which would allow preserving this agreement after Washington unilaterally pulls out of it, reads statement of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg issued Friday following the alliance’s urgent summit. However, NATO countries did not unanimously approved US plans to exit the treaty.
Russians to blame
“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. Russia’s ongoing selective implementation of its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty has undermined the contribution of this important Treaty to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region,” the statement reads. “The United States has declared Russia in violation of the Treaty, and has now announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty in six months, consistent with Treaty provisions. The US has declared that it may, however, reconsider its withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.”
“NATO Allies and partner nations have engaged with Russia, both in capitals and at the OSCE in Vienna, to seek Russia’s return to compliance at the earliest date possible. Russia’s return to compliance is the best way to preserve the benefits of the Treaty,” the statement adds.
Stoltenberg also emphasized that NATO allies raised this issue at the alliance summits in Wales in 2014, Warsaw in 2016 and Brussels in 2018.
What will NATO comply with?
The statement also noted that NATO countries “will continue to uphold, support, and further strengthen arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation, as a key element of Euro-Atlantic security.” How this idea correlates with the US withdrawal from the treaty is not specified in the statement.
At the same time, the document stressed that NATO allies “remain open to dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council on risk reduction and transparency” and “continue to aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia, when Russia’s actions make that possible.”
Lack of solidarity
Earlier on Friday, a diplomatic source told TASS that the US is seeking support of every NATO ally for its unilateral decision to quit the treaty and wants to shift all the responsibility for this step on Russia. However, the statement issued today shows that Washington only managed to partially reach this objective. Even though the document overflows with alleged violations committed by Russia, everything that relates to the US exit from the treaty simply retells the US position without any assessments of other alliance members.
Meanwhile, DPA agency confirmed dissatisfaction of European countries on Friday, citing their sources, and reported that the US failed to secure backing of all NATO partners during the urgent meeting.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the decision to quit the Treaty on Open Skies, that allowed participants to fly over any territories of the treaty signatories to supervise the military activity. Giving the reasoning behind this decision, the US side cited alleged numerous violations committed by Russia, while Moscow rejects these accusation and lays counterclaims. According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the US itself brazenly violates the treaty. Moreover, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova underlined that Russia itself has complaints about the US regarding the treaty which were voiced before.
Treaty on Open Skies
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 instrument 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.