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18 Dec, 2021 12:45

Russia formally quits 'Open Skies'

Russia formally quits 'Open Skies'

Russia has officially left a landmark strategic agreement that allowed surveillance flights over its territory. Moscow said the US wrecked the post-Cold War confidence boosting Treaty on Open Skies by abandoning it last year.

Signed in 1992, it allowed countries to conduct a certain number of short-notice unarmed reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory. The deal was devised to bolster transparency and build confidence, after decades of mistrust. 

The US left the treaty last year after then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Moscow of “grossly and continuously” violating its terms. 

“Moscow appears to use Open Skies imagery in support of an aggressive new Russian doctrine of targeting critical infrastructure in the United States and Europe with precision-guided conventional munitions,” Pompeo said at the time.

Russia denied any wrongdoing and warned in January that it will also quit the treaty in response to Washington’s departure. Moscow officially exited on Saturday.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Washington bears “full responsibility” for the agreement’s demise. The treaty “has fallen victim to an internal fight between different influential groups in the US, which was won by the hawks,” the statement read.

The ministry added that Moscow “has done everything it could to find possible compromise solutions” to salvage the deal and have the US rejoin. 

All these circumstances left us no choice. They predetermined Russia’s exit from the treaty. We cannot and will not undermine our national security.

The ministry said that over the years, Russia conducted 646 reconnaissance flights in accordance with the agreement, and accepted 449 flights over its territory.