U.S. government announced on the 22nd that it would officially withdraw from the Open Sky Treaty from now on. In this regard on the same day, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Russia will pay close attention to and analyze the words and deeds of other member states of the Treaty and make relevant decisions in accordance with Russia’s own security interests and its allies.
Analysts pointed out that the unilateral “retreat” of the United States once again highlights its persistence in promoting unilateralism and constantly evading international responsibility, which is detrimental to others and self-detrimental, and poses a serious threat to the international arms control system and global security.
Multiple considerations of withdrawal
The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. Signatories include the United States and Russia and most NATO countries. According to the treaty, member states can carry out unarmed aerial reconnaissance of each other’s territory as required. According to media statistics, as of 2019, the member states of the treaty have carried out more than 1,500 reconnaissance flights.
The treaty is regarded as an important measure to build mutual trust between the United States and Europe after the end of the cold war, which helps to enhance transparency and reduce the risk of conflict between the parties.
Analysts believe that there are multiple considerations for the unilateral withdrawal of the United States. First of all, the United States accuses Russia of defaulting. The United States and Russia have previously accused each other of breach of contract, and both sides have also restricted the implementation of the treaty.
In a briefing on the withdrawal decision in May this year, the U.S. State Department said that unless Russia can resume performance, the United States will officially withdraw the contract in six months.
Secondly, the United States believes that the treaty is “obsolete” from a technical point of view. Analysts pointed out that the United States no longer needs to collect image intelligence through reconnaissance aircraft, and commercial remote sensing satellites now have, or even better than, the camera resolution level allowed by the treaty.
In addition, the two OC-135B reconnaissance aircraft dedicated to the treaty mission are “old” and expensive to maintain and replace.
Thirdly, the current government of the United States lacks voices to support arms control, and is generally skeptical of arms control, believing that the arms control mechanism is far more stringent than other countries’ restrictions on the United States, making the United States “self-bound”.
The trend is still variable.
Although the United States withdrew, the Open Sky Treaty continued to enter into force. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on the 22nd saying that the previous accusations of the United States about Russia’s violation of the Open Sky Treaty are groundless, and the destruction of the Open Sky Treaty by the United States is deliberate.
The Russian side hopes that the existing member states of the Treaty can strictly perform their duties to ensure that their territories are subject to reconnaissance and do not transfer relevant information about their reconnaissance flights to third-party countries that are not member states.
Analysts pointed out that this shows that Russia still requires it to have the right to conduct flight reconnaissance of U.S. military bases in the territory of the treaty member states, while ensuring that treaty member states do not share relevant information with the United States after reconnaissance of Russia. Steven Pever, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution of the United States, believes that the Russian demand is not unreasonable, but it will put American allies in an embarrassing position.
Analysts also said that the future does not rule out the possibility of the United States re-accession to the treaty, but re-entry needs to cross the threshold of a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate. At present, neither Democrats nor Republicans hold a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Piffer said that in the future, the United States may choose to bypass Congress and rejoin the Treaty by administrative agreement with the consent of other members of the treaty.
Undermine the arms control system
A large proportion of U.S. allies do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. Previously, Britain, Germany and France have repeatedly expressed their hope that the United States can stay in the treaty. NATO also issued a statement saying that it will continue to firmly support the strengthening of international arms control, disarmament and preventing nuclear proliferation, taking into account the current international security environment.
German Foreign Minister Mass said in a statement on the 22nd that he was “deeply regretted” for the United States’ “retreat” move. He said that the treaty helps to “build confidence and promote security throughout the northern hemisphere”.
Analysts pointed out that the United States persists in withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty despite the opposition of its allies, trying to put the interests of the United States above the legitimate interests of other countries and the common interests of the international community again, which will harm itself, its allies and even global security.
Since the 1970s, the arms control treaty has been the core pillar of U.S.-Soviet and subsequent U.S.-Russian relations, and its significance far exceeds the clarity of the number of nuclear warheads or intelligence images. The Open Sky Treaty is a successful case of “cooperative monitoring” in arms control. The withdrawal of the United States from the treaty is undoubtedly a major blow to the global arms control system.
Analysts pointed out that from withdrawing from the INF Treaty last year to withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty this year, to the negative treatment of the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, various practices of the United States seriously undermine the global strategic balance and stability, or will further intensify the conventional and even nuclear arms race among major powers, making international arms control The structural contradictions faced by the system are more prominent, exacerbating the risk of regional conflicts.