Last updated on: 6/19/2020 10:28:04 AM PST
Should the US Have Withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty?
The Open Skies Treaty was signed by President George H.W. Bush on Mar. 24, 1992 and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2002. The treaty allows all signatories to send unarmed observation flights to observe military or other activities. In the letter sent to Congress recommending ratification, Bush stated, "By engaging all participating States actively in cooperative observation, the Treaty on Open Skies will strengthen international stability. The Treaty also provides an important means of increasing mutual understanding of military forces and activities, thus easing tensions and strengthening confidence and security, not only in the area covered by the Treaty, but in other areas as well."
The Trump administration announced withdrawal from the treaty on May 21, 2020.
[Editor's Note: In a statement from Secretary of State Pompeo the Trump administration announced, "Tomorrow [May 22, 2020], the United States will submit notice of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies to the Treaty Depositaries and to all other States Parties to the Treaty. Effective six months from tomorrow, the United States will no longer be a party to the Treaty. We may, however, reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.
...At its core, the Treaty was designed to provide all signatories an increased level of transparency and mutual understanding and cooperation, regardless of their size. Russia’s implementation and violation of Open Skies, however, has undermined this central confidence-building function of the Treaty – and has, in fact, fueled distrust and threats to our national security – making continued U.S. participation untenable."
Source: Michael R. Pompeo, "On the Treaty on Open Skies," state.gov, May 21, 2020]
"In announcing the intent to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, President Trump has doubled down on his short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership. With the world confronting the health and economic consequences of a global pandemic, the United States should be leading the international community, working with allies, and avoiding destabilizing actions.
...The Trump Administration says it is withdrawing from the Treaty because Russia is cheating. There are real concerns that Russia is not complying fully with the Treaty. It has improperly imposed restrictions on overflights over certain regions (Kaliningrad and the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia), to which the United States and other parties have objected. These Russian violations should be addressed not by withdrawing from the Treaty, but by seeking to resolve them through the Treaty’s implementation and dispute mechanism. That is exactly how other disputes over Russian implementation have been resolved, including altitude restrictions over Chechnya."
Source: Joe Biden, "Statement on Vice President Joe Biden on President Trump's Decision to Withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty," medium.com, May 22, 2020
"Even worse than Trump’s contemptible tweeting has been his pro-war policies and actions and his callous disregard for servicemembers. In the last two weeks alone, the Trump administration has... [w]ithdrawn the US from the Open Skies Treaty, which allows its remaining 33 signatories to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over each others’ territories to observe military forces and nuclear weapons installations in order to verify arms control and peace treaty obligations."
Source: Howie Hawkins, "Memorial Day: Honor the Warriors, Not the Wars," howiehawkins.us, May 25, 2020
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