France has said it regretted the US’s plan to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, even though it shared Washington’s concern over Russia’s implementation of the pact.
The US administration, which has said Russia had repeatedly violated the pact’s terms, is expected to formally pull out of Open Skies in six months.
“I think we have a very good relationship with Russia. But Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty. So until they adhere we will pull out,” US President Trump told reporters on Thursday.
He said there was a “very good chance we’ll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together.”
On Friday, the French Foreign Ministry said in a joint statement with Germany, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Sweden, that the treaty remained “functional and useful”.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the US withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty undermines international security, adding Washington provided no facts to back up its assertion that Moscow has repeatedly violated the pact’s terms.
NATO envoys are expected to discuss the future of the treaty on Friday.
The US move deepened doubts about whether Washington will seek to extend the 2010 New START accord, which imposes the last remaining limits on US and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear arms to no more than 1,550 each. It expires in February.
US allies in NATO have pressed Washington not to leave the Open Skies pact, but the organisation had recognised the US’s concerns.
Unarmed overflights as part of Open Skies are aimed at bolstering confidence and providing members forewarning of surprise military attacks.
A NATO official said: “In particular, we are concerned that Russia has restricted flights over certain areas.”
The official recalled concern raised at a 2018 summit of alliance leaders that “Russia’s selective implementation” of Open Skies was undermining their security.