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United States Withdraws From Treaty On Open Skies

Nov 24, 2020: The United States has formally withdrawn from the Treaty on Open Skies as of November 22. Six months ago, the US had notified the countries party to the agreement about its withdrawal from the treaty. 

“On May 22, 2020, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositaries and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months from the notification date.  Six months having elapsed, the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies,” read the statement released by the US Department of State.

Enforced since 2002, the Treaty on Open Skies sought to foster trust among signatories by allowing the 34 participating nations to observe one another’s militaries through unarmed flyovers. Such open access was envisioned to prevent misunderstanding and build confidence among countries. The treaty covers all the areas over which the parties have sovereignty, including islands.

The US has repeatedly accused Russia of non compliance to the treaty because Russia has blocked surveillance around several areas including the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and the border with Georgia. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Today, pursuant to earlier notice provided, the United States withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies is now effective. America is more secure because of it, as Russia remains in non-compliance with its obligations.”

Earlier in May 2020, President Mr Donald Trump had hinted that the US may reconsider its decision to withdraw with renewed nuclear arms control talks with Russia. President-elect Mr Joe Biden has earlier criticised Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty.

Russia criticised the decision and alleged that the US strategy is to “cover up its own destructive actions by accusing Russia.” 

“This decision is a deplorable development for European security. This US-initiated treaty is a major component of European security. That said, Moscow was not surprised by Washington’s decision, which characterises its approach to discarding the entire package of arms control agreements and trust-building measures in the military sphere,” said the statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation.

Although not signatory, China also criticised the US decision to withdraw. “This move by the U.S. undermines military mutual trust and transparency among relevant countries, is not conducive to maintaining security and stability in relevant regions and will also have a negative impact on the international arms control and disarmament process,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing November 23 .

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