US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty comes into force on Sunday

US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty comes into force on Sunday

The United States ceased being a party to the Open Skies Treaty (OST) on Sunday, TASS reports.

On May 21, US President Donald Trump declared that Washington was going to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, which provides for inspection flights over member countries’ territories to monitor military activities. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained in a written statement that the decision on Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement would enter into force in six months, starting from May 22, i.e. on November 22.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 in Helsinki by 23 member nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The main purposes of the open skies regime are to develop transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with the existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations. The treaty establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Now, the treaty has 33 signatory states. Russia ratified the Treaty on Open Skies on May 26, 2001.

For the past several years, Washington has been accusing Moscow of implementing the treaty in a selective manner and of violating some of its provisions. Russia has also put forward some objections regarding the way the United States has been implementing the agreement. In 2017, Washington imposed certain restrictions on Russian observation flights above its territory; Moscow came up with a mirror-like response some time later.

Democrat Joseph Biden, who, according to the American media, won the presidential election in the United States, called Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Treaty short-sighted, noting that it would increase tensions between the West and Russia, as well as increase the risk of miscalculation and conflict.