Russia to Exit Open Skies Treaty

Russia has recently announced to exit the Open Skies treaty. Russia has announced to withdraw the treaty stating that the treaty has been highly compromised ever since the United States has withdrawn.

Key Facts

  • The open skies treaty allows the unarmed surveillance flights over member countries.
  • The United States has exited the Open Skies arms control and verification treaty in November 2020 after accusing Russia of violating it. However, Russia denied the allegations.
  • Russia is concerned that even though United State has left the treaty but could retain access to overflight intelligence which can be gathered by allies of the United States who are still members in the treaty.
  • Russia further seeks guarantees and assurances from other countries that they would not share such intelligence with the United States. But countries have failed to do so.

The Treaty on Open Skies

  • The open skies treaty or Treaty on Open skies seeks to establish a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its member countries.
  • This treaty was designed to enhance the mutual understanding and confidence by providing all the participants a direct role to gather the information about the military forces and activities of concern.
  • The treaty came into effect on January 1, 2002.
  • Currently, 34 states are party to it.

Purpose of the treaty

The treaty came into effect with the purpose to allow the countries to openly surveillance each other in order to prevent misunderstandings and limit the escalation of tensions. The treaty further provides mutual accountability for countries so as to follow through on treaty promises. It promotes openness and transparency of military forces and activities among the member countries.


The “mutual aerial observation” concept was proposed to Soviet Union by the then US Present in 1955. But the Soviets rejected the concept. Later, in 1989, it was signed as an initiative of U.S. president George H. W. Bush and Negotiated by the NATO members and the Warsaw Pact. It was signed on March 24, 1992 in Finland. However, the United States officially withdrew form it on November 22, 2020.

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