Q : Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Russian Federation’s delegation to the Vienna talks on military security and arms control, said on Monday that Russia will initiate severe reprisals if the countries remaining in the Open Skies Treaty share data with the United States after its withdrawal from the agreement and restrict Russian flights over U.S. facilities in Europe. Can you comment on that statement? Will France support U.S. demands to keep Russian aircraft from making observation flights over American military facilities in Europe under the Treaty?
A : France has no knowledge of requests made concerning observation flights over American bases. Those requests would not involve France in any case, as there are none on its territory. It is up to each State Party to the Treaty to determine on a sovereign basis the conditions that apply to flights over its territory under the Treaty. The latter provides for potential restrictions that could be applied to observation flights in article XIII, whose provisions we urge all State Parties to fully comply with.
France respects all the stipulations of the treaties it has signed, including article IX of the Open Skies Treaty, which specifies the conditions in which data collected during flights may be communicated to other State Parties to the Treaty and to them alone.
We do regret the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which offers transparency and enhanced predictability with regard to military activities, especially with Russia. France will continue to enforce this treaty and will initiate a dialogue with the new U.S. Administration on arms control, a vital instrument for preserving strategic balances.