Putin Signs Law Withdrawn From Open Skies Treaty

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Putin signs bill withdrawn from Open Skies treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities after US exits from pact

  • Putin has signed a bill that will withdraw Russia from the pact within six months
  • Comes after Trump pulled the US out of last year and Biden said he won’t be in it again
  • The pact allowed the US and Russia, among others, to make short-term espionage flights over each other’s territory with the aim of preventing conflicts.
  • Both Russia and the US have accused each other of systematically violating the pact

Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that will formally withdraw Russia from an international treaty allowing espionage flights over member states.

It comes after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the pact last year, and President Biden said last month that he has no intention of re-entering the agreement.

The treaty – called Open Skies – allowed signatories to make short-term unarmed observation flights over other countries that had signed the pact, including military bases.

The idea was to promote stability and prevent conflict by giving each country a clear idea of ​​what the others were doing, especially when maneuvering troops or military equipment.

Russia’s withdrawal will take effect in six months. The US completed its withdrawal in November last year.

Vladimir Putin

Joe Biden

Vladimir Putin (left) has signed a bill that will withdraw Russia from a treaty allowing unarmed espionage flights over other countries after Donald Trump canceled the pact last year and Joe Biden (right) said he will not renegotiate it

The idea behind the Open Skies Pact began under President Dwight Eisenhower who proposed an agreement between world powers in 1955.

In 1989, the Open Skies regime was conceived under George Bush Sr.

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 by countries such as the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and came into force in 2002.

Since the treaty’s entry into force in 2002, more than 1,500 flights have been operated under the treaty, promoting transparency and monitoring arms control agreements.

Open Skies is just one of many arms control treaties dating back to the Cold War that were abandoned under Donald Trump, including the INF treaty that banned the development of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles.

At the time, Trump labeled the agreements unfair because they hindered America’s and Russia’s ability to develop new nuclear weapons while imposing no such limits on China.

President Biden and his Russian colleagues have expressed a desire to renegotiate some of the pacts, but relations between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated dramatically since then and the path forward is now unclear.

Open Skies aimed to prevent conflict by allowing espionage flights over military bases so the signatories knew what each other was up to (pictured, a US spy plane used in the operation)

Open Skies aimed to prevent conflict by allowing espionage flights over military bases so the signatories knew what each other was up to (pictured, a US spy plane used in the operation)

Biden and Putin will hold a summit next week in Geneva, where it is hoped that some ideological differences can be ironed out and progress made on key issues, including gun control.

Also on the agenda are Russia’s annexation of Crimea, human rights violations including the hijacking of a Ryanair flight over Belarus, the incarceration of critic Alexei Navalny and hacks of US infrastructure that the US blames on Russia.

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week that Open Skies is unlikely to appear, as the US has made its stance on the pact “clear.”

Russian lawmakers in both the Senate and House of Representatives had previously voted to end Moscow’s participation in Open Skies.

Members of the accord included countries across Europe, the former Soviet Union and Canada.

Moscow and Washington had long accused each other of violating the terms of the agreement, and then-US President Donald Trump formally withdrew the US last November.

The pact allows members to request copies of photos taken during surveillance flights operated by other members.

A country under surveillance is given a 72-hour warning for a flight and a 24-hour warning for the flight path, at which time it can propose changes.

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