Middlebury Institute of International Studies
Implications of the US withdrawal from the
Open Skies Treaty
For immediate release
May 21, 2020 : The Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty is the latest blow to the global arms-control architecture.

The United States has long expressed concerns about Russia's compliance with the treaty, though experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies believe that "withdrawal does nothing to lower the likelihood of accidental war," according to Eurasia Program Director Sarah Bidgood .

Under the treaty, 34 states parties are permitted to conduct short notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others' territories. The US withdrawal from the accord effectively diminishes US access to valuable data on Russian military activities.

"This administration consistently chooses to pull out of existing treaties instead of making full use of their dispute resolution mechanisms," said Bidgood, noting that the Trump administration continually says that it hopes to pursue a trilateral approach to arms control with Russia and China. "Such an approach doesn’t create a lot of incentives for Moscow or Beijing to come to the negotiating table."

"From the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty to Open Skies and, apparently, to New START, these dispute mechanisms have not been properly used," said Nikolai Sokov , Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, who wrote the recent piece reviewing the Options in Case of US Withdrawal from Open Skies . "It will take decades to rebuild the arms control framework, which was erected by one administration after another, Republican as well as Democratic. That is," adds Sokov, "if we can survive that long."

For more commentary on the implications of the US withdrawal from Open Skies, the following CNS experts are available for comment:

William Potter , Founding Director
Monterey, CA

Sarah Bidgood , Director, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program
Monterey, CA

Nikolai Sokov , Senior Fellow
Vienna, Austria

Miles Pomper , Senior Fellow
Washington, DC

Elena Sokova , Executive Director, VCDNP
Vienna, Austria

James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

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