Tomorrow the United States will formally submit its notification of its decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. After careful consideration, including input from Allies and key partners, it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in the United States’ best interest to remain a party to this Treaty when Russia does not uphold its commitments. U.S. obligations under the Treaty will effectively end in six months.
The Open Skies Treaty was designed decades ago to increase transparency, cooperation, and mutual understanding. Instead, Russia has increasingly used the Treaty to support propaganda narratives in an attempt to justify Russian aggression against its neighbors and may use it for military targeting against the United States and our Allies.
Russia has also continuously violated its obligations under the Treaty, despite a host of U.S. and Allied efforts over the past several years. Since 2017, the United States has declared Russia in violation of the Treaty for limiting flight distances over the Kaliningrad Oblast to 500 kilometers (km) and for denying flights within 10 km of portions of the Georgian-Russian border. Most recently, in September 2019, Russia violated the Treaty again by denying a flight over a major military exercise, preventing the exact transparency the Treaty is meant to provide.
We will not allow Russia’s repeated violations to undermine America’s security and our interests. We remain committed to effective, verifiable, and enforceable arms control policies that advance U.S., Allied, and partner security, and we will continue to work together to achieve those ends. The United States has been in close communication with our Allies and partners regarding our review of the Treaty and we will explore options to provide additional imagery products to Allies to mitigate any gaps that may result from this withdrawal. In this era of Great Power Competition, we will strive to enter in to agreements that benefit all sides and that include parties who comply responsibly with their obligations.