By Eurasia Business News – November 22, 2020
The White House, Washington D.C. – photo credit : S.B.
The United States officially withdrew on November 22 from the Open Skies Treaty, signed in 1992.
“Today is six months from the moment the United States submitted its notice of withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty. We are no longer a party to this treaty, which Russia has grossly violated for years” said on Twitter Robert O’Brien, US Assistant to the President for National Security.
At the same time, O’Brien classified the treaty as one of the “outdated” agreements that “benefit […] the [US] opponents” at the expense of American security.
“The US President has never stopped putting America first, pulling us out of outdated treaties and agreements that benefit our adversaries at the expense of our national security” said the assistant chief of the Washington administration.
The US State Department has also issued a statement regarding the withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty : “Six months have passed, and the US withdrawal [from the treaty] took effect on November 22, 2020“.
In October 2019, President Trump publicly announced his intention to terminate US participation in the Open Skies Treaty, an international agreement which allows more than 30 States parties to fly over each other’s territories to monitor military activity and fulfilment of disarmament obligations. NATO was officially informed of this position in November. Then Donald Trump confirmed on May 21 the Washington’s intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty.
On May 22, 2020, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositaries and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months from the notification date. In a written statement, the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo explained that the decision will enter into force six months later, counting from May 22, that is, November 22. The American side named the alleged violations of the agreement by Russia as the reason of this withdrawal.
In particular, Moscow would have refused to conduct aerial surveillance in a 10 km long zone along its border with the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia the State Department said in a statement. The United States also accused Russia of “illegally imposing restrictions on the range of flights over Kaliningrad” and “the refusal to the monitoring by observers from the United States and Canada of a major Russian military drill in 2019.”
The Russian Federation rejected these allegations and expressed regret over the US decision. The Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the US withdrawal “makes the treaty no longer viable.“
The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on May 21 the treaty “an important part of the European arms control architecture” which “promotes security and peace in virtually the entire northern hemisphere.“
The Open Skies Treaty was signed on March 24, 1992 in Helsinki by 23 NATO member States, as well as the former Warsaw Pact, and entered into force in 2002. A total of 35 states have joined it, including members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and all NATO countries. The Russian Federation ratified the multilateral treaty on May 26, 2001. The Open Skies Treaty has become one of the measures of security and mutual confidence of the OSCE states. During the existence of the Treaty, more than 1,500 observation flights were made.
The Democrat Joe Biden, who, according to the official results won the presidential elections in the United States, said that this move was short-sight, noting that it would increase tensions between the West and Russia, as well as increase the risk of miscalculation and conflict.
The Open Skies Treaty is still in force and makes possible cooperative observation flights over the territories of the States Parties in the OSCE area between Vancouver and Vladivostok. This agreement offers transparency of military activities, even in times of crisis, and provides for additional verification of arms control agreements. Therefore, this treaty is an essential tool of confidence building among powers.
The Trump administration has targeted several international treaties over the past four years, most notably the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed on December 8, 1987 by the United States and the Soviet Union. This treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and employ extensive on-site inspections for verification. In October 2018, the President Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the INF Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal. On Aug. 2, 2019, the United States formally withdrew from the INF Treaty.
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