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‘Russia withdraws from the Open Skies Treaty’

Published: 25th Jan, 2021

In a latest development, Russia announced that it was leaving the Open Skies Treaty (OST).


In a latest development, Russia announced that it was leaving the Open Skies Treaty (OST).


The Treaty

  • The Open Skies Treaty, which entered into force in 2002, permits countries to fly unarmed aircraft with cameras and other sensors over the territory of the treaty’s other member states.
  • Based on an idea advanced by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, Open Skies provides for the collection of imagery of military installations and activities in order to foster transparency.
  • Each party to the treaty has two annual quotas:
    • the number of flights it may conduct over other treaty-parties (active quota)
    • the number of overflights that it must accept (passive quota)
  • Aircraft are inspected before conducting an Open Skies flight, and personnel from the country to be overflown are on board during the flight.
  • Under the treaty, a member state can “spy” on any part of the host nation, with the latter’s consent.
  • A country can undertake aerial imaging over the host state after giving notice 72 hours before, and sharing its exact flight path 24 hours before.

Reasons given by Russia

  • Lack of progress in removing the obstacles for the treaty’s functioning in the new conditions.
  • Russia has argued that the limits on flights over Kaliningrad, which hosts sizable military forces, are permissible under the treaty’s terms, noting that the US has imposed more sweeping restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.
  • As a condition for staying in the pact after the US pullout, Moscow unsuccessfully sought guarantees from NATO allies that they wouldn’t transfer the data collected during their observation flights over Russia to the United States.

The US exit

  • In November, the United States left the OST first after accusing Russia of violating the pact– allegations that Russia denied.
  • Moscow has now blamed Washington for its own decision of leaving the treaty.

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