On November 22, the United States officially exited the 1992 Open Skies Treaty that partners 30-plus nations to conduct observation flights over each other’s territory. Trump administration had made an announcement on May 21, 2020, that the US will withdraw from the treaty six months later, citing, Russia’s violations above US military facilities in Europe that made it untenable for the US to continue to be part of the treaty. Although, the senior administrative officials had stated that Trump will reconsider the departure from the Open Skies predominantly because the US had initiated new nuclear arms control talks with Russia that incorporated arms control verification and compliances.
Meanwhile, the NATO allies, that support the treaty, had appealed to the US to stay party in the alliance. However, now, it remains on the Biden administration to consider reentering the agreement, as the move was condemned by the Democratic party.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the ally parties present the legal guarantees to suspend flight data supply to the United States with immediate effect on November 22, according to the sources of Russia’s state-run agency TASS. An official document issued by Russia’s ministry of defense read, “We will seek firm guarantees that the remaining parties to the Treaty on Open Skies meet their commitments. First, on ensuring the possibility of observing their entire territory and second, on non-transfer of files on observation flights to third countries, which are not participants of the Treaty on Open Skies.”
Prior to the US election @PatriciaMary of @ChathamHouseISR advised the @LordsIRCom that pausing the US’s withdrawal from Open Skies would be valuable whoever won the election. The US allies value the treaty and think withdrawing is bad for US interests.— European Leadership Network (@theELN) November 13, 2020
The UK’s @LordsIRCom has also urged the UK government to emphasize to the US that the UK places importance on pausing the US’s notice of withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty if at all possible: https://t.co/ED7cC1gBAO pic.twitter.com/EwOWDcYvPW— European Leadership Network (@theELN) November 13, 2020
As Washington remained firm in its’s stance on withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the US “arrogantly ignored our proposals on ironing out these problems,” adding, “they interrupted the consultations and began accusing our country of violating the Treaty.” The remarks were issued following an official statement from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who notified Russia and member countries that the withdrawal from the treaty signed in March 1992 in Helsinki by 23 member nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would enter into force in six months, starting from May 22, i.e. on November 22 as Moscow acted in a selective manner and violated provisions.
The treaty had entered into force with the US in 2002 to permit unarmed aircraft with surveillance equipment such as cameras and other sensors on the territories of 34 member states. Under Open Skies Treaty the countries would maintain “transparency” by gathering imagery of military installations. US allies and partners shared confidence-building data, except, the US accused Russia of imposing restrictions on some aircraft and withholding military data. Trump imposed reciprocal restrictions on Russian aircraft jeopardizing the central purpose of the treaty. An official notice of the US’ intent to exit was dispatched in May as Trump said in a press conference, “Russia didn't adhere to the treaty, we will pull out.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that "it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in America's interest to remain a party to the Treaty on Open Skies."
(Image Credit: US airforce)