In what experts fear could lead to growing mistrust between global powers, Russia on Friday announced that it was leaving the Open Skies Treaty (OST), an accord between over 30 countries that allows participants to fly unarmed reconnaissance flights over any part of their fellow member states.
In November, the United States left the OST first after accusing Russia of violating the pact– allegations that Russia denied. Moscow has now blamed Washington for its own decision of leaving the treaty.
What is the Open Skies Treaty?
First proposed in 1955 by former US President Dwight Eisenhower as a means to deescalate tensions during the Cold War, the landmark treaty was eventually signed in 1992 between NATO members and former Warsaw Pact countries following the demise of the Soviet Union. It went into effect in 2002 and had 35 signatories, including key players US and Russia, along with one non-ratifying member (Kyrgyzstan).
The OST aims at building confidence among members through mutual openness, thus reducing the chances of accidental war. Under the treaty, a member state can “spy” on any part of the host nation, with the latter’s consent. A country can undertake aerial imaging over the host state after giving notice 72 hours before, and sharing its exact flight path 24 hours before.
The information gathered, such as on troop movements, military exercises and missile deployments, has to be shared with all member states.