Sunday 22nd November 2020
The Open Skies treaty allows Russia and NATO countries to monitor each other. After the announced withdrawal, the US is now leaving the agreement. The administration in Washington accuses Moscow of not sticking to agreements.
The USA is no longer part of the international agreement on military observation flights between the NATO countries and Russia. The exit took effect today after the Washington government informed contractors six months ago that it was withdrawing from the contract.
The US government accuses Russia of no longer complying with the obligations of the agreement. On the other hand, Russia demanded a justification for the move right up to the end. NATO partners in Europe also doubt whether the nuclear power will adhere to the contract clauses. Russia rejects the allegations and sets conditions to remain in the agreement. In the event of a possible exit by Russia, the so-called Open Skies contract would be invalid.
On November 12, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded a written commitment from the NATO states not to disclose any more data to the USA after observation flights over Russia. And he warned the contracting parties against responding to US demands not to fly over American military bases in Europe. “This is a gross violation of the treaty,” Lavrov said. The possibility of observing US activities in Poland or Germany, for example, is considered attractive for Russia, which is why the country remains in the agreement despite massive concerns.
The agreement was concluded in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. It has allowed the 34 signatory states to do several observation flights per year in the airspace of the contracting parties. The USA and Russia could each make up to 42 reconnaissance flights a year. There have been more than 1500 control flights so far. The treaty is seen as one of the pillars of the confidence-building measures.
In view of the US exit from the agreement under US President Donald Trump, Russia had warned of a new arms race. After the Open Skies exit, a major setback could still be imminent in disarmament efforts: The future of the last major nuclear disarmament treaty, New Start, is still pending. The contract expires in early February 2021. Russia had repeatedly proposed an extension to the USA – so far without result.