On January 15th, Russia announced that it has started the withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, following the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from yet another international security agreement back in 2020.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty “significantly upended the balance of interests of signatory states.”
The Russian foreign ministry also said that the United States had used a “fictitious pretext” for its withdrawal and had disturbed “the balance of interests of the participating states”.
The ministry said Russia had put forward proposals to retain the “viability” of the treaty but did not receive support from Washington and its allies.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said Moscow’s decision to leave Open Skies was “predictable” as the other member states did not fulfil its terms.
In a post on Facebook, the lawmaker said Russia requested the remaining signatories to confirm that they would not transfer information obtained under the Open Skies agreement to Washington.
The United States, like many Open Skies treaty members, is part of the NATO alliance.
“The blame for what is happening — and this is a very unfortunate scenario — is entirely on the United States and NATO allies,” Kosachev wrote.
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.
U.S. President Donald Trump declared Washington’s intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty in May 2020, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for the United States to remain a party.
The U.S. completed its withdrawal from the pact in November 2020.
After two months of attempts to salvage it, Russia also said it is initiating its own withdrawal.
Russia denied breaching the treaty, which came into force in 2002. The European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider and called on Russia to stay in the pact.
Moscow argued that the U.S. withdrawal will erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations.
The United States, essentially, succeeded in destroying yet another international treaty.
It has, so far, failed in completely destroying the Iran Nuclear Deal.
It succeeded in bringing an end to the INF, without any issues, by accusing Russia of breaches and then withdrawing itself. It then immediately began testing prohibited missiles, which raised the question if whether they were being developed while the INF was still in force.
Currently, the continuation of the New START treaty is still in question.
In mid-December 2020, the US proposed to extend the treaty by one year. And it should also include an undefined warhead freeze to which Marshall Billingslea, U.S. President Donald Trump’s special arms-control envoy, said Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed.
“We already responded, repeatedly. 5 times we offered, incl. in writing, to meet to finalize the freeze/extension deal to which Putin agreed,” Billingslea said on Twitter. The Russian Foreign Ministry “rejected all mtgs,” he added. “All we need to do is define what we are freezing, the cap level & start verification talks.”
.@KremlinRussia_E, we already responded, repeatedly. 5 times we offered, incl. in writing, to meet to finalize the freeze/extension deal to which Putin agreed. @RussiaMFA rejected all mtgs. All we need to do is define what we are freezing, the cap level & start verification talks https://t.co/shVdHFtckg
— Presidential Envoy Marshall S. Billingslea (@USArmsControl) December 17, 2020
The treaty expires in February 2021, and there is currently no news on whether it would be extended or not, but it is quite questionable. Joe Biden will be US president in 5 days, and he may decide to salvage it, somehow.
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