The United States has officially abandoned the Open Skies Treaty, a multilateral agreement on transparency in arms control, with accusations to Russia of “perverting” the pact, the US State Department confirmed on Sunday.
“The United States is no longer part of the Open Skies Treaty,” says the Department’s brief statement led by Mike Pompeo, roughly six months after outgoing President Donald Trump announced his decision to break the treaty. , despite objections raised by European allies, who fear that the decision will lead Russia to also prohibit the overflowing of its territory by the Baltic countries, useful for controlling movements.
This Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreement, in force since 2002, allows its Member States to fly over any part of the territory of other participants, taking photos from the air, to ensure that their neighbors or rivals do not are preparing for military attacks.
The argument put forward by the United States for withdrawal is that Russia prevents them from controlling their military exercises from the air and does not allow flights over regions where Moscow is believed to have nuclear weapons that can reach Europe, namely in Kaliningrad and nearby of the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The American secret services also believe that Russia may be using its flights on American territory to identify American infrastructure that may be vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Russia’s reaction was not delayed and arrived via Twitter by the Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov.
“As of today, the US is no longer part of the Open Skies Treaty. Significant development. Let us not forget that the participation of the USA was a precondition for the entry into force of the Treaty. Now, the question is what Russia will do. All options are open at this stage, ”wrote the diplomat.
Germany also commented on the American exit from the international pact, with the Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, “deeply” regretting the withdrawal from the USA. However, the leader of German diplomacy stressed that the German position “on the treaty does not change” and maintains the commitment to an agreement considered “essential”.
Heiko Maas added that Germany also advocates a “comprehensive modernization of conventional arms control in Europe” and stresses that this requires “adapting existing multilateral agreements” and “creating new mechanisms for building mutual trust” in order to be prepared for the challenges to peace and security in this century.
Although the US presidency passed in January to Joe Biden, after the victory over Trump in the November 3 elections, it is not yet clear that the Democrat wants to return the country to the treaty.
On the other hand, the president-elect’s arms control priorities include extending the New Start nuclear weapons agreement with Russia and rescuing the Nuclear Agreement with Iran.