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The system of international security treaties has been facing harsh times.
On January 15th, Russia announced that it has started the process of withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, following the United States’ unilateral decision to do this back in 2020.
The Russian 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.” It added 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.
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, but made no real steps to support the existence of the deal.
The United States, essentially, succeeded in destroying yet another international treaty. Earlier, 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.
The Iran Nuclear Deal collapsed thanks to actions of the Trump administration.
However, there are still some bricks of the international security system that could be destroyed. In particular, this is the New START treaty, the continuation of which has been in question for the last year. In mid-December 2020, the US proposed to extend the treaty by one year, but until recently the situation remained unclear. The situation was further complicated by demands of the previous Trump administration to rewrite terms of the treaty into the US favor as the main condition to prolong it. Nonetheless, on January 27, Washington and Moscow agreed to prolong New START for another 5 years without preconditions. New US President Joe Biden opted to demonstrate that the White House is at least publicly committed to keeping the landmark arms control deal alive.
Even if the treaty is extended, the international security system has already been severely damaged due to unilateral actions of the Washington establishment and its vassals, and prospects of its restoration, regardless the administration sitting in the White House, are rather dim.