Open Skies Treaty


Not a comment on any of the recent posters, but I really miss the contributions we used to get from Magic_Mushroom. Reading the first part of this thread from 2019 was instructive.
Trying to link 'standalone' treaties, and to obligate nations that a/ aren't signatories and b/ see no benefit in them, is doomed to failure. POTUS is sending mixed messages, which I expect will do nothing more than increase instability and cause further lack of consensus within NATO.

'The president held out the possibility of negotiations with the Russians that could save American participation in the accord. But even some of his own aides said success for that seemed unlikely.

'President Trump has decided to withdraw from another major arms control accord, he and other officials said Thursday, and will inform Russia that the United States is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure that they are not preparing for military action.

'Mr. Trump’s decision may be viewed as more evidence that he is preparing to exit the one major arms treaty remaining with Russia: New START, which limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. It expires in February, weeks after the next presidential inauguration, and Mr. Trump has insisted that China must join what is now a U.S.-Russia limit on nuclear arsenals.

'Even as the administration disclosed Mr. Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Open Skies agreement, the president held out the possibility of negotiations with the Russians that could save American participation in the accord. “There’s a chance we may make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together,” he said outside the White House. “I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to pull out and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal.”

'That seems unlikely, even his own aides said. Yet at the same time, his newly appointed arms negotiator, Marshall Billingslea, said the administration planned to hold detailed conversations with the Russians over the future of New START. But the Chinese do not appear to be participating in that first meeting, even though Mr. Billingslea insisted that he was “confident” they would ultimately join. So far, though, the Chinese have indicated no interest in limitations on their own nuclear arsenal, which is about a fifth of the size of the United States’ and Russia’s, and some critics of the administration’s approach say the insistence on Beijing’s participation is a poison pill to scuttle the treaty.'

'NATO ambassadors are to hold an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss US President Donald Trump’s announcement he was pulling his country out of the Open Skies Treaty with Russia, a diplomat told AFP.

'The planned meeting of the ambassadors making up the North Atlantic Council — the top political body guiding NATO — follows Trump’s declaration on Thursday that the US would leave the pact effective in six months’ time unless his administration deemed Russia had come back into line with it. The meeting, to be held Friday afternoon Belgium time, was to analyse the consequences of Trump’s announcement, the diplomat said.'

Donald Trump, making Putin possible, every step of the way.

'President Donald J. Trump has announced the U.S. intends to exit the “Open Skies” treaty. The 34-nation agreement allows the United States, Russia and other countries to conduct observation flights over each other’s territories in the interests of transparency and international security. Speaking to reporters, Trump said: “We’re going to pull out, and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal. We’ve had a very good relationship lately with Russia."

'As the Trump administration casts aside the concerns of the Europeans, the Kremlin intends to amplify “the lack of solidarity” exhibited by the United States towards its allies. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the state media outlet TASS: "This move will not only worsen the situation with strategic stability and military security in Europe, but apparently it will also harm the interests of U.S. allies that are parties to this European agreement." Trump’s ability to sow that kind of discord among NATO allies is unquestionably appetizing to the Kremlin.'

'We regret the announcement by the US Government of its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, although we share their concerns about implementation of the Treaty clauses by Russia.

'The Open Skies Treaty is a crucial element of the confidence-building framework that was created over the past decades in order to improve transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area.

'We will continue to implement the Open Skies Treaty, which has a clear added value for our conventional arms control architecture and cooperative security. We reaffirm that this treaty remains functioning and useful. The withdrawal becomes effective within six months.

'Regarding issues on Treaty implementation, we will continue to engage Russia as was previously decided among NATO Allies and other European partners to address outstanding issues such as the undue restrictions to flights over Kaliningrad. We continue to call on the Russian Federation to lift these restrictions and continue our dialogue with all parties.'

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The thin edge of yet another wedge, with the mallet provided by President Trump.

'President Donald Trump announced, on May 21, that the United States would be withdrawing from the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies, which permits reciprocated surveillance overflights of participating members’ military facilities as a confidence-building measure. The treaty depositary countries (Canada and Hungary) were sent official notes informing them about the intended US withdrawal and that the mandatory six-month waiting period countdown should now begin. In November 2020, Open Skies obligations will no longer apply to the US. Theoretically, during this six-month waiting period, Washington’s withdrawal could be reversed; and in fact, Trump told journalists the US might return to it if Russia itself begins to comply with the treaty. But Moscow does not seem willing to do anything of the sort: US complaints about Russian noncompliance with Open Skies have been officially rejected in Moscow as “senseless and categorically unacceptable,” according to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (Interfax, May 25).

'Open Skies is a multinational treaty signed by 35 countries on both sides of the Atlantic (ratified by 34); the US’s withdrawal does not formally end the treaty. Washington’s European allies have expressed regret and discontent, while many in the United States, including presumptive Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joseph Biden, have condemned Trump’s decision to pull out. After some consideration, Moscow at present seems intent to stay in Open Skies despite Washington’s unilateral pullout. The Russian authorities announced that some 90 percent of Open Skies overflights are in Europe. According to Ryabkov, it was the US that has been grossly violating the treaty, while Moscow will be working to keep Open Skies functional “because it important.” Yet, according to Colonel General (ret.) Leonid Ivashov, the Open Skies treaty “does not play any significant role in maintaining the strategic balance or Russian national security” (Interfax, May 25).

'Both Ryabkov and Ivashov may be right simultaneously: Moscow does not see Open Skies as essential, but it could decide to continue to abide by its term for the time being and use the opportunity to exploit and possibly widen tensions within the Western alliance. The Open Skies principle of free intelligence-gathering overflights was first officially proposed by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955, during the easing of tensions between East and West following the death of Joseph Stalin. At that time, the US had a massive fleet of long-range, strategic, photo-surveillance aircraft, which, in fact, already frequently intruded Soviet airspace uninvited. The Soviet Union flatly refused to allow such a legalization of US aerial surveillance, investing instead in high-altitude, long-range surface-to-air missiles to stop those US intrusions. In 1989, amidst the euphoria of the end of the Cold War, then-President George H. W. Bush proposed Open Skies to help build confidence; Moscow agreed, and the treaty was signed in 1992. Test flights began almost immediately, though officially the treaty only went into force in 2001. All intelligence collected during permitted overflights is made available to all Open Skies treaty member countries “in the interest of openness.” Though Washington is still legally (for six more months) a treaty member, Moscow has already called for establishing a mechanism to exclude the US from any further treaty-approved intelligence-sharing (, May 26). Certainly, the Russian demand was designed to further undermine Transatlantic solidarity.'

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