Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted to the State Duma a bill on Russia's withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty on Tuesday, May 11. The international treaty allows mutual aerial monitoring of military movements and strategic installations of the signatory countries.
Russia announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty earlier in January. The move followed a similar decision from the U.S. administration on November 22, 2020, citing repeated violations from Russia including blocking certain flights and forbidding surveys of military exercises.
“The U.S. withdrawal from the Treaty significantly disrupting the balance of interests of the parties to the Treaty achieved when it was signed, which led to threats to Russia’s security,” Putin's bill reads.
Earlier, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine stated that Russia grossly violated the Treaty on Open Skies during 2009-2020, particularly by reducing the area of its application through the occupation of parts of the territory of Ukraine and Georgia. It also added that the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the Treaty is another example of the implementation of the Russian foreign policy course aimed at destroying the European security architecture.
According to the Chair of Russian Duma’s international affairs committee, all the procedures for withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty are expected to be completed by the end of May "without delay."
To become law, Putin’s legislative initiative would need three votes of approval in the State Duma and one in the upper-house Federation Council before receiving the president's signature.
Open Skies Treaty
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed on March 24, 1992, in Helsinki (Finland) after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The treaty signed by 27 CSCE member states (since 1995 – the OSCE: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), entered into force on January 1, 2002.
Currently, 33 states are party to the treaty: Belgium, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Great Britain, Greece, Georgia, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, France, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Croatia.
The Open Skies Treaty aimed to prevent military tensions from escalating into war by allowing former Cold War adversaries to fly over each other’s territories using planes equipped with sophisticated sensors. While most modern-day military intelligence is gleaned through satellites, some information can only be gathered by airplane sensors. Most importantly, the treaty was a symbol of a determination to avoid war.