The U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty

74

Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation

The U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty
// Pathways to Peace and Security. 2021. No 1(60). P. 133-150
DOI: 10.20542/2307-1494-2021-1-133-150
Rubric: ARMS CONTROL

Abstract

The article analyzes the dynamics, causes and implications of the collapse of the Open Skies Treaty in the broader context of gradual dismantlement of the network of arms control and confidence building regimes created at the end of the Cold War. The central focus is on the explanation of the declining U.S. support for the treaty since the 2010s and the eventual withdrawal addressed against the background of the evolution of the U.S. approach to arms control during the first two decades of the 21st century. While policies changed from one president to another, a sequence of U.S. administrations shared growing loss of interest in arms control and unwillingness to invest in generating domestic support for existing and new agreements. The weakening of arms control became preferable to limitations on the U.S.’ own programs and forces, in line with the belief that the United States was sufficiently advanced to remain ahead of any possible competitors, including Russia. While arms control issues are more effectively addressed through detailed, difficult negotiations and compromises, the evolving U.S. approach to perceived treaty violations by Russia amounted to an ultimatum to Moscow to admit violations and fix them the way the U.S. wants them to be fixed. Russia’s decision to follow suit by withdrawing from the treaty, while not immediate or preordained, is explained as driven both by political motives and, in cost-benefit terms, by concerns that the United States would keep access to data on Russia collected under the treaty through the U.S. NATO allies. The prospects for modest upgrade of the arms control agenda under the Biden administration are also addressed.


Keywords

Open Skies Treaty, the Open Skies Consultative Commission, United States, Soviet Union, Russia, overflights, transparency, confidence-building measures, compliance, violations, withdrawal, arms control, U.S.-Russia relations


About author
Nikolai Sokov is Senior Fellow at Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, Austria.

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Sokov N. The U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty // Pathways to Peace and Security. 2021. No 1(60). P. 133-150. https://doi.org/10.20542/2307-1494-2021-1-133-150



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