Russia, which has never fully complied with the mutual observation flight agreement that was supposed to build trust between them and the U.S., is now threatening to cut the agreement and blaming Washington fully for the snafu.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it has informed Washington that after the U.S. had accused Russia of violating the patrol flights treaty and “created maximum inconveniences” for the Russian mission, the Kremlin will set up more limitations on U.S. military flights.
The transatlantic deal was a confidence-building measure by which the U.S., Russia and dozens of other states have flown unarmed, reconnaissance jets over each other’s territories since 2002. The flights are meant to calm fears of military buildup, but as Moscow and Washington’s relationship has deteriorated, compliance with the treaty has been at risk.
Moscow is threatening to curb the airspace it allows scheduled U.S. observation flights, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is blaming Washington for triggering this reaction. She said it was the “absolutely groundless” U.S. accusations that Russia is violating the treaty in the first place that have resulted in Moscow now reneging on its obligations. The new limitations would affect nighttime flyovers in the airspace above three Russian airfields, she said.
“Stemming from the principle of reciprocity, Russia was forced to undertake adequate measures of a procedural nature,” she told RIA on Thursday, suggesting Moscow is responding to similar limits enforced by the U.S.
While Washington has repeatedly introduced punitive sanctions to castigate Russian actions, including for its annexation of Crimea and efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election, there has been no official announcement of a rollback on the Treaty of the Open Skies by the U.S. government. For years, the U.S. State Department has complained that Russia was obstructing jets from getting as close to the ground as the treaty allows. Three airfields, one of which was the heavily armed western port of Kaliningrad, have been the site of reported Russian noncompliance.
The Russians are claiming foul over the US supposedly asking a Russian observation plane to increase altitude over a base in Alaska. However, recently, the Russians flaunted the agreement by having one of their aircraft hover over Washington D.C. landmarks while another buzzed a resort that President Donald Trump was staying at.
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