Russia to withdraw form Open Skies Treaty, EU concerned

(Photo: Russian Air Force)

The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that Russia will withdraw from the international treaty allowing observations flight over military facilities. In a statement the Foreign Ministry referred to the earlier withdrawal of the U.S., that  “significantly upended the balance of interests of signatory states”.

In reaction to the US withdrawal, the procedure to step out of the treaty has been initiated by the Russian ministry and presented to parliament. Intended to build trust between Russia and the West, the treaty allowed over thirty-six participating countries to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to collect information about military forces and activities. 

In November last year the U.S. withdrew itself from the treaty, stating that the frequent violations by Russia made it “untenable for the United States to remain a party”. Russia denied these allegations and the European Union urged to U.S. to reconsider their position. Although Russia’s the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, Leonid Slutsky, said that Russia could review its decision to withdraw if the U.S. decides to return to the pact last Friday, he also stated that those changes are very small. Despite the EU soothing attempts, both Russia and the U.S. are thus on the brink of leaving the pact for good. 

The leave of the two superpowers also illustrates another episode of returning Cold War tensions. Back in 2019 both the U.S. and Russia already withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The INF treaty was signed in 1987, after nearly a decade of bargaining between the superpowers. With only the new START nuclear agreement  left in place, the tensions are rising to new heights again. Since the START agreement expires in three weeks, arms control advocates warn that an expiration of this last treaty would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, creating a dangerous situation for global stability.