Berlin should pile pressure on Moscow instead of criticizing America’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, a US envoy told the German foreign minister, as the two NATO allies clashed over Washington’s move to ditch the accord.
The US announced its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty (OST) earlier this week, unnerving its NATO allies in Europe.
Among those calling for the preservation of the 2002 multilateral deal, which allows for surveillance flights over the territories of its signatories, was German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Germany’s top diplomat sounded the alarm that the looming US withdrawal would “significantly reduce” the scope of the treaty, adding that Berlin would “work intensively” with “like-minded partners” to talk the US out of leaving the treaty in the following six months.
The rhetoric from the European powerhouse did not sit well with the US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who has courted controversy in the past over his repeated attempts to lecture Berlin on a range of domestic issues, from its military spending to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“Instead of complaining about the US reaction, Heiko Maas should have ramped up pressure on Russia in recent years so that it meets its obligations [under the Open Skies Treaty],” Grenell said in an interview with Rheinische Post on Saturday.
The ambassador reiterated Washington’s mantra that “Russia has not adhered to the Open Skies agreement for a long time,” lamenting that Germany still plans to abide by the OST despite the US concerns.
Germany is not the only country to have voiced its objections to the US move. In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of 10 EU countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands, called the pact “a crucial element of the confidence-building framework.”
Maas’ call was echoed by Brussels, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pointing out that the treaty, which has allowed for more than 1,500 observation flights over various countries since 2002, “provides transparency and predictability.”
“Withdrawing from a treaty is not the solution to address difficulties in its implementation and compliance by another party,” Borrell said in a statement.
Russia has repeatedly denied the US accusations of not fulfilling its obligations under the OST, insisting that it has restricted flights over its territory only as a tit-for-tat response to similar moves by the US and its allies.
Despite being dissatisfied with the United States’ own compliance, Moscow expressed readiness to negotiate with Washington and to “do everything possible to keep the treaty intact.”
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