Russia announces intention to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty

by Nicholas Fiorenza

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on its website on 15 January that Russia would begin the process of withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty. The announcement followed the formal withdrawal of the United States from the treaty on 22 November 2020 on what the Russian Foreign Ministry described as a far-fetched pretext that caused serious damage to the treaty, the role as an instrument for strengthening confidence and security [of which] was undermined.

Computer-generated image of the Tu-214ON, configured for Open Skies flights that Russia no longer needs for that purpose now that it is withdrawing from the treaty. (Tupolev)

Computer-generated image of the Tu-214ON, configured for Open Skies flights that Russia no longer needs for that purpose now that it is withdrawing from the treaty. (Tupolev)

After the US declared its intention in May 2020 to withdraw from the treaty, 11 European countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden – published a joint statement announcing that they would continue to implement the Open Skies Treaty, while calling on Russia to lift its restrictions on flights under the treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in its 15 January statement that Moscow's proposals for maintaining the viability of the treaty did not receive support from US allies.

When it announced last May that it would withdraw from the treaty, the US cited repeated Russian violations, like the refusal to allow access to observation flights within a 10 km corridor along the country’s border with the Russian-occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as restrictions placed on using an Open Skies refuelling airfield in the Russian-occupied region of Crimea.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on its website on 15 January that Russia would...

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