The U.S. has officially withdrawn from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, a pact with Russia that permitted unarmed, reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories.
Sunday was the deadline after a 6-month warning on withdrawal, according to State Department deputy spokesman Cale Brown.
“On May 22, 2020, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositaries and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months from the notification date,” Brown’s statement read. “Six months having elapsed, the U.S. withdrawal took effect on Nov. 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies.”
The treaty was designed to permit surveillance of military installations around the world, but the Trump administration has warned Russia has not been holding up its end of the agreement anyway, leading to the announcement of intention to withdraw six months ago.
“While the United States, along with our Allies and partners that are States Parties to the treaty, have lived up to our commitments and obligations under the treaty, Russia has flagrantly and continuously violated the treaty in various ways for years,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a May statement, per Fox News. “This is not a story exclusive to just the treaty on Open Skies, unfortunately, for Russia has been a serial violator of many of its arms control obligations and commitments.”
The withdrawal is going to be a point of contention for Senate Democrats who are wary of Russia and the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda.
“For the last 17 years, the United States has robustly utilized the treaty, overflying Russia nearly three times as often as Russia overflew the United States,” Senate Democrat leaders wrote in a June letter. “In addition, the treaty serves as a key confidence-building measure, including flights over Ukraine, which demonstrated U.S. commitment to European security and provided shareable and incontrovertible images of Russian aggression.
“By withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, the United States is leaving an agreement our partners have repeatedly communicated they value and believe improves their security.”