“Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere, we will pull out,” President Donald Trump announced this week, confirming that the United States will be leaving the 35-nation Treaty on Open Skies because of Russian violations.
Under the terms of the 1992 treaty, which has been in force since 2002, members are allowed to have short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the land of the other members, so as to observe military forces and activities, by using specific, pre-approved observation aircraft. The official certified U.S. Open Skies aircraft is the OC-135B Open Skies (shown). The stated purpose of the treaty is to reduce the chances that military miscalculations could cause a war.
The United States has objected to Russia’s imposition of restrictions on flights near Kaliningrad, an area between Poland and Lithuania, which has a significant Russian military presence. Jonathan Hoffman, a Defense Department spokesman, said that Russia had denied U.S. flights “within 10 kilometers of the Georgia-Russia border, and denying a flight over major military exercises the past year which completely prevented imaging of military exercise activity that was scheduled and approved previously. Russia flagrantly and continuously violates its obligations under Open Skies and implements the treaty in ways that contribute to military threats against the United States and our allies and partners.” Hoffman also noted that the United States is “committed to our treaty obligations, but in this era of great power competition we are looking to advocate for agreements that benefit all sides and that includes partners who comply responsibly with their obligations.”