US formally withdraws from Open Skies treaty

by Gareth Jennings

The United States formally withdrew from the international Open Skies treaty on 22 November, fulfilling the Trump administration’s pledge made in May.

The US, which has been flying the OC-135B in the Open Skies role, withdrew from the international treaty on 22 November. (US Air Force)

The US, which has been flying the OC-135B in the Open Skies role, withdrew from the international treaty on 22 November. (US Air Force)

“On May 22, 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,” the US State Department said. “Six months having elapsed, the US withdrawal took effect on November 22, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies.”

In declaring its intent in May to withdraw from the treaty, the US cited repeated Russian violations, refusing, for instance, 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.

For its part, Russia, which was scathing of the US decision, noted perceived US violations of the treaty, with the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, pointing to a maximum flight range over the territory of the Hawaiian Islands, restrictions on flights over the Aleutian archipelago, and the setting of unreasonable limits on the height of the flight of its observation aircraft. “The list goes on”, he said at the time.

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The United States formally withdrew from the international Open Skies treaty on 22 November, fulfill...

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