Russia still to decide whether to stay in overflight treaty

Russia is keeping all options open following the U.S. decision to withdraw from an international treaty allowing observation flights over military facilities, a top Russian diplomat said Monday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said after a video call with senior diplomats from other participating countries in the Open Skies Treaty that Russia will see what happens next and analyze various considerations before determining whether to stay in the agreement.

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump announced Washington’s intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for the United States to remain a party. Russia denied breaching the pact, which came into force in 2002, and the European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider.

The treaty was intended to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing the accord’s more than three dozen signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities.

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Moscow has argued that the U.S. withdrawal will erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations, particularly amid Russia-West tensions after the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.

Ryabkov said after Monday’s call that Washington’s decision to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty appears final.

“We will see what happens next and weigh the circumstances linked to the developing situation with regard to our security interests and the need to contribute to the strengthening of European security,” the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian minister as saying. “In this situation, we can’t exclude anything. All options are on the table.”

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