Russia QUITS Open Skies treaty allowing mutual reconnaissance flights

Russia QUITS Open Skies treaty which allows nations to carry out surveillance flights and see if countries are preparing for war – two months after US withdrew

  • Moscow announced it was pulling out of 1992 agreement observed by 34 states 
  • Comes two months after the US quit the treaty, citing Russian breaches 
  • Moscow said US withdrawal had ‘significantly upended the balance’
  • Exit applies early pressure on Joe Biden’s new White House administration

Russia has quit the Open Skies treaty which allows nations to carry out reconnaissance flights to check if their counterparts are preparing for war.

Moscow’s decision to pull out of the 1992 agreement, observed by 34 states, comes two months after Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the treaty.

The Kremlin said Washington’s exit ‘significantly upended the balance of interests of signatory states,’ adding that Moscow’s proposals to keep the treaty have been cold-shouldered by America’s allies.  

A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter takes off during an air show at the Teknofest festival at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on September 17, 2019

The treaty was intended to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing the accord’s more than three dozen signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow is now launching the relevant procedural moves to withdraw from the pact.

Trump declared Washington’s intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty in May, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for the United States to remain a party. The US completed its withdrawal from the pact in November. 

Russia denied breaching the treaty, which came into force in 2002. The European Union has urged the US to reconsider and called on Russia to stay in the pact.

Moscow has argued that the US withdrawal will erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations, particularly amid Russia-West tensions after the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.

It comes just five days before the inauguration of Joe Biden and could be the beginning of Vladimir Putin beginning to test the new administration’s resolve.

Russia’s move deepens doubts about a major nuclear arms control treaty, New START, which expires next month. 

Biden has said he is keen to renew the agreement which imposes the last remaining limits on US and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear arms to no more than 1,550 each. 

America’s European partners had decried Trump’s withdrawal from Open Skies in November.

NATO chiefs last year agreed ‘on the importance of arms control, and on the need to bring Russia back to compliance.’

‘A number of allies expressed concern that the U.S. may be leaving the treaty,’ the official added.   

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