- The Washington Times
Friday, May 22, 2020

Member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are engaging in talks with Russia to return to compliance with the Open Skies Treaty, after the U.S. announced it would withdraw from the landmark treaty that allows intelligence flights over Moscow.

NATO allies on Friday held an emergency meeting to discuss President Trump’s Thursday announcement to pull the U.S. out of the 1992 pact that allows dozens of nations to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over each other’s territory, citing repeated Russian violations of the treaty.

Russia’s ongoing selective implementation has undermined the Open Skies Treaty,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement Friday.

He acknowledged Russian violations of the treaty, and pointed to flight limitations over Kaliningrad and its border with Georgia — two key complaints from U.S. critics of the agreement.

Supporters of the treaty have long said that European partners could be aggravated by another U.S. repudiation of a major multilateral security pact. Every NATO ally has joined the agreement, and when the U.S. conducts intelligence flights, European allies are often brought along.

“We are firmly committed to the preservation of effective international arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation,” Mr. Stoltenberg said, adding that member nations are engaging in dialogue with Russia to return to compliance.

“We agree that all states party to the Open Skies Treaty must fully implement their commitments and obligations. All NATO Allies are in full compliance with all provisions of the Treaty.”

The Trump administration’s announcement sent shockwaves through defense communities around the world, while Democratic lawmakers have slammed the move as “reckless.”

Mr. Stoltenberg explained that NATO allies “will continue to uphold, support, and further strengthen arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation, as key elements of our security.”

The American pullout would take effect six months from now, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration reserves the right to “reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance” with the accord.

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