What is the Open Skies Treaty, which the USA plans to exit? Discuss.
The U.S. has given notice that it will exit the Open Skies Treaty (OST), an agreement that allows countries to monitor signatories’ arms development by conducting surveillance flights over each other’s territories.
U.S. Secretary of State has announced the withdrawal citing that Russia had “continuously and flagrantly” violated the treaty.
The OST came into effect in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration and it allows its 34 signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of treaty countries.
The U.S. has used the treaty more intensively than Russia. Between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. flew 196 flights over Russia (in addition to having imagery from other countries) compared to the 71 flights flown by Russia.
A senior U.S. diplomat for non-proliferation, also cited changes to the security environment as a reason for the U.S. exiting the OST.
The U.S.’s exit last year from another arms deal the West had signed with Russia — the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty — as well as its imminent departure from the OST has raised the strong possibility that the Trump administration may not renew the New Start Treaty, an agreement signed by the Obama administration with Russia that caps Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenal. The New Start Treaty is due to expire next February.
The Trump administration has been worried that extending New Start would negatively impact an arms deal with China and Russia.
The State Department told the U.S. Congress earlier this year that it is concerned that China’s nuclear stockpile could be doubled if the New Start Treaty continued as is, without including China.
Russia, on the other hand has said it would continue to honour its commitments under the treaty.