On January 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement announcing the start of domestic procedures to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. Another arms control agreement may thus be terminated.
USA withdraws from the treaty first
In November of 2020, the United States officially pulled out from the Open Skies Treaty. Before the move, Washington had repeatedly accused Russia of non-compliance with the agreement. In particular, the Americans claimed that Russia restricted flights over the Kaliningrad enclave, as well as in the ten-kilometer corridor along the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.In 2014, a campaign was launched in the United States to restrict inspection flights of Russian aircraft. The Americans in particular said that the new Russian aircraft were outfitted with more advanced digital equipment that enabled them to obtain more information vs. the volume of information that American aircraft collected when flying over Russia.During Barack Obama’s presidency, Russian inspectors were not allowed to conduct several flights over the territory of the United States. During the presidency of Donald Trump, the US shaped its course to exit the treaty, including other arms control agreements.
The ball is on the side of the West
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council committee on international affairs, noted that the treaty could have been saved after USA’s withdrawal from it if other parties to the treaty – primarily the members of the North Atlantic Alliance – had wanted to save it. According to him, they could have decided not to transfer information collected during their inspection flights over Russia to the Americans. As Kosachev noted on his Facebook page, it needed to be confirmed additionally, since Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty reads as follows: