Defense Secretary Mark Esper invited to Moscow Victory Day parade

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu invited U.S.Defense Secretary Mark Esper to Moscow's June 24 Victory Day parade during a telephone conversation.

The counterparts spoke Tuesday, exchanging views on controlling the COVID-19 virus, regional security, arms control and other topics, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. It specifically mentioned Syria and Afghanistan as subjects Shoigu and Esper discussed.

"On the Russian side, concern was expressed about the consistent destruction of international arms control treaties by the United States, including the Treaty on Open Skies," the ministry said.

The White House said on May 21 that the United States will formally exit the treaty within six months.

Signed in 1993, and in force since 2002, the treaty gives its 35 signatories the right to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over other countries' territory to ensure that arms control promises are kept, with all collected information shared. It is regarded as an important element of trust and confidence-building, designed to prevent a Cold War-style nuclear standoff.

Russia has also recently begun intercepting U. S. military planes over international waters, notably in incidents over the Mediterranean Sea.

The Pentagon has not announced if Esper will accept the invitation to view the parade, an annual Red Square event celebrating the end of World War II.

The 75th Victory Day parade was postponed from its traditional May 9 date to June 24 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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