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Russia says US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty would undermine global security

Russia says US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty would undermine global security
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Russia warned Friday that the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from a treaty undermines global security, vowing that it would continue to abide by the pact.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, panned President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE’s announcement Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which was crafted in 2002 and allows its 35 signatories to fly unarmed observation flights over each other. The treaty was designed to boost transparency about military activities and avoid miscommunications that could lead to war.

“The withdrawal of the U.S. from the Open Skies Treaty will come as yet another blow to the system of military security in Europe. It will also harm the interests of the U.S. allies,” Ryabkov told an online forum in comments that were disseminated by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

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The diplomat added that Russia would work to preserve the treaty despite the U.S.’s withdrawal.

The White House announced it was pulling out of the pact Thursday, with administration officials accusing Russia of violating the deal by not allowing flights over parts of its territory.

“President Trump has made clear that the United States will not remain a party to international agreements that are being violated by the other parties and are no longer in America’s interests,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement.

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Russia has repeatedly denied that it bars signatories to the pact from conducting the unarmed surveillance flights.

The Thursday announcement now triggers a six-month scramble by European powers to try to salvage the treaty before the U.S. withdrawal formally takes effect.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, said his body was “firmly committed” to preserving Open Skies but also expressed concerns over Russia’s “ongoing selective implementation of its obligations.”

“NATO Allies will continue to uphold, support, and further strengthen arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation, as a key element of Euro-Atlantic security, taking into account the prevailing security environment. Allies also remain open to dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council on risk reduction and transparency. We continue to aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia, when Russia’s actions make that possible,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Trump expressed openness to hammering out a new arrangement with Russia, suggesting Moscow would want to “make a deal” after the U.S. withdrawal. 

“I think we have a very good relationship with Russia, but Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty,” the president told reporters Thursday. “So, until they adhere, we will pull out.”

"But there’s a very good chance we’ll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together,” he added. “I think what's going to happen is, we’re going to pull out and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal. We’ve had a very good relationship, lately, with Russia.”

However, Ryabkov hinted that the withdrawal from Open Skies could hinder negotiations on other arms pacts, saying a renewal of the New Start treaty, a bilateral deal capping the number of nuclear warheads in each country that expires in February, could be unlikely.

“I personally assess the chances that [New Start] will be effective after Feb. 5, 2021, as not very high,” Ryabkov said during the forum, according to a translation by The Financial Times.