Open Skies Treaty
- It is a trust building treaty to reduce the reducing the chances of accidental war.
- It is an agreement that allows its 34 signatories countries to monitor arm development by conducting surveillance flights (unarmed) over each other’s territories.
- The treaty established an aerial surveillance system for its participants.
- It was signed in 1992 and came into effect in 2002.
- India is NOT a member of this treaty.
Other important points
- It was first proposed in 1955 by former US President Dwight Eisenhower as a means to deescalate tensions during the Cold War.
- The treaty was eventually signed in 1992 between NATO members and former Warsaw Pact countries.
- Kyrgyzstan has signed it but not yet ratified it.
- 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.
- Only approved imaging equipment is permitted on the surveillance flights, and officials from the host state can also stay on board throughout the planned journey.
Why US left this treaty?
- USA announced it’s exit from this treaty in 2020.
- The USA has blamed Russia for restricting US flyovers in neighbour Georgia and its military enclave in Kaliningrad (Russia).
- Russia misused its flights over the US and Europe to identify critical infrastructure for potential attack in a time of war.
- Russia intends to annex the Crimean peninsula and has designated an Open Skies refueling airfield in the region.
However, Russia has denied the allegations.
Issues after the withdrawl
- This has further deepened doubts on extension of the New START treaty*, which expires in February, 2021.
Why Russia left this treaty?
- Russia too has announced that it is leaving the Open Skies Treaty (OST).
- After US withdrawal, Russia has attributed this move to “the lack of progress in removing obstacles for the continued functioning of the agreement.”
- Moscow is worried that the
- U.S.’s withdrawal restricts its access to American territory.
- While Washington’s allies in Europe can continue flyovers over Russian territory to collect intelligence that could be handed to the U.S.
*New START treaty
The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is a treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation.
It deals with measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
It entered into force on 5th February, 2011.
It is a successor to the START framework of 1991 (at the end of the Cold War) that limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.