NATO ambassadors will meet today to discuss the possible US withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, a military pact that allows 34 nations to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants.
The treaty, first implemented in 2002, aimed to solidify trust between Russia and the West by reducing the risk of military miscalculations surrounding short-notice reconnaissance flights. Member countries can use such flights to monitor military activities and verify compliance with other treaties.
US President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw from the treaty on May 21, threatening to leave by November due to Russian violations of treaty terms. Although Moscow has limited flights over regions including the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, Washington has restricted Russia’s ability to fly over US military installations in Hawaii, undermining the credibility of Trump’s claims.
A US withdrawal from the treaty could damage Washington’s relations with its European allies and weaken safeguards against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Since the eruption of conflict in 2014, targeted American observation flights in the Donbass region have gathered data and sent a signal of political support to Ukraine. If Washington withdraws from the treaty, expect Moscow to retaliate with increased aggression in the region.
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Fina analyses global economic and political events for the Current Developments Team with a research focus on East Asia. She contributes regularly to the Daily Brief as an analyst and editor.