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Russia Foreign Ministry Report Refutes Allegations That Russia Has Violated Open Skies Treaty

May 27, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a document yesterday of questions and answers in response to U.S. allegations that Russia is not adhering to the Open Skies Treaty, allegations that provided that basis for the U.S. announcement, last week, that the U.S. is withdrawing from the treaty.

“Today, media outlets are talking about the treaty more often in connection with the U.S. withdrawal from it. However, some publications contain inaccurate facts or biased analyses that reflect the views of the treaty’s opponents in the United States,” the document states in its preface. “But they are completely disregarding the positions of others, including the Russian Federation’s position. This unofficial document is based on facts, rather than conjecture, and aims to rectify this situation.”

First of all, the document notes, it took a long time for Russia to ratify the treaty—Russia signed the treaty in 1992 but didn’t ratify it until 2002.

“The opening of Russian territory to aerial observation was a very difficult decision, especially since Russia has to host many more flights than any other signatory state. We have hosted over 500 observation missions under the treaty,” it says. The reason for this is that signers of the treaty that are members of NATO don’t fly OST missions over each other’s territory and rarely over Ukraine and Georgia, but everyone is interested in Russia. At the same time, Russia is interested in everyone else, but cannot fly as many missions over the U.S. and Europe as the U.S. and Europe can fly over Russia.

“But, these problems notwithstanding, Russia believes that the treaty is useful for all its participants. It facilitates greater trust and, therefore, European security,” it says. In fact, “Russia has to maintain two points of entry and exit, 13 Open Skies and refueling airfields, as well as 28 standby airfields, to facilitate almost weekly observation flights by the treaty’s signatory states over the Russian Federation.”

With respect to the exclave city of Kaliningrad, on the border between Lithuania and Poland, the document reports that the flight restriction that Russia has imposed there is well within the parameters allowed by the treaty and was necessary to reduce problems in Kaliningrad’s confined air space. It notes that “Russia allowed a mission involving the U.S., Lithuania and Estonia to fly over the Kaliningrad Region with a range of 505 km (Slide 3). We hope that this goodwill gesture will pave the way for agreements on the peculiarities of observation flights over this region.”

As for the 10 km flight restriction near Russia’s border with Georgia, specifically at Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it has more to do with political problems of Russia’s recognition of the two breakaway regions, which are not recognized as independent states by anyone else. Georgia ceased participation in the treaty in 2012.

“Russia is ready to allow observation missions to these areas on condition that Georgia gives up its current position, which is incompatible with the key provisions of the treaty, and allows Russian flights over its territory,” it says.T

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