Open Skies parties to meet to discuss US exit

The member states of the Open Skies Treaty (OST), which permits signatories to conduct surveillance flights over each other’s territory

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Photo: REUTERS/Josh Smith

The member states of the Open Skies Treaty (OST), which permits signatories to conduct surveillance flights over each other’s territory to monitor and share information on military activity, will convene today in Vienna to discuss the US’ November 2020 withdrawal from the agreement.

As most reconnaissance overflights over Russia are conducted by the US, Washington’s  European allies will face a short-term loss of critical intelligence regarding Russian military activity. However, French and German recon missions and intelligence sharing are likely to increase to fill the gap. The certification of Berlin’s new Open Skies aircraft next year will buy Western Europe significant independence, potentially paving the way for Berlin to assume the leading role in gathering aerial intelligence on Russia.

Expect Moscow to demand that the remaining members pledge to not share any information collected under the OST with Washington. While Russia has warned that the US exit could lead to a domino effect of withdrawals, more than a dozen European governments have vowed to remain post-November. As the West continues to value confidence-building overflights over Russia, expect core signatories to remain involved in the short term, further cementing America’s isolation from Europe in intelligence sharing.

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