Statement by the Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control KONSTANTIN GAVRILOV at the 1st Plenary meeting of the 85th Session of the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), Vienna, April 26, 2021

Madam Chair,

Distinguished Colleagues,

In terms of discussion of the issue of current implementation of the Treaty on Open (OST) Skies, the Russian Delegation would like to announce the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia on the situation with regard to the Treaty on Open Skies.

First of all, we note that a group of states led by the United States keeps trying - no matter what - to shift the responsibility for the deplorable situation with the Open Skies Treaty (OST) to the Russian Federation. It looks like Washington had never withdrawn from it. Claims are still being made that “the Russian Federation must come into full compliance with the Treaty” before someone somewhere might begin to consider any chances for return to the Treaty.

We have repeatedly stated our position in response to such claims. Those who wish so may familiarize themselves with it, inter alia, on the MFA website.

Meanwhile, we draw attention to the fact that some time ago we introduced a set of ideas how to resolve the problem of observation flights over Georgia and over 10-km zones along the Russian border in the Caucasus. Nonetheless, these ideas were rejected by those who are indifferent to the future of the OST.

Moreover, last year we gave permission to conduct an observation flight over the Kaliningrad region at a distance that exceeded the 500-kilometer limit, and also created all necessary conditions for a successful flight over the area where the Kavkaz-2020 (Caucasus-2020) military exercise was held.

Both were strong political signals, but unfortunately, no adequate response followed.

In turn, we maintain several concerns regarding the implementation by the NATO allies of the US, and also by Ukraine and Georgia, of their obligations under the OST. These concerns were emphasized, inter alia, by our delegation at the fourth Review Conference of the Treaty on 7 October 2020 and in the Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia dated 22 November 2020.

We made very serious points on the US record of non-compliance prior to that country’s withdrawal from the Treaty. They were summarized in the Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia dated 22 November 2020. As is a usual way of our opponents nowadays, these points were disregarded and were not even responded to.

We expressed our readiness in principle to address all these issues, including the concerns of the Russian Federation and those of our partners, in a comprehensive way, at a “small group” on the margins of the Open Skies Consultative Commission. To turn this expression of readiness into practice will only be possible after the United States sends a clear and unambiguous message about its decision to return to the Treaty.

Meanwhile, the Treaty moves to a point where it will fall apart. One should not expect Russia to offer unilateral concessions. If the status quo is maintained, our internal procedures necessary prior to the notification of Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Treaty will be completed by the end of May.

The Government of the Russian Federation will present the draft law on the denunciation of the Treaty on Open Skies to the President; it will then be submitted to the Chambers of the Federal Assembly for review.

I thank you, Madam Chair, and request that this statement be attached to the journal of the day.