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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Shannon Bugos

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, Nov. 15, 2019

Moscow Expresses Frustration About U.S. Stance on New START Top Russian Foreign Ministry officials have issued a fresh set of warnings about the future of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because, they say, the Trump administration continues to refuse to engage in talks on extending the treaty. Washington “is evading any serious discussion, making public discouraging signals regarding the future of this treaty,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Nov. 8 at a nonproliferation conference in Moscow. Lavrov’s deputy, Sergey Ryabkov, voiced similar criticisms at the...

Select Statements of Support for New START

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( New START ), which entered into force in 2011, will expire on February 5, 2021, unless the U.S. and Russian presidents decide to extend the treaty by up to five years. New START is the latest in a series of agreements negotiated by Republican and Democratic presidents that verifiably limit and reduce the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals. Under the treaty’s terms, the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals are limited to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads; 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-...

Frustrations Surface at CTBT Conference


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The 11th international conference to discuss steps to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force revealed tensions between Russia and the United States, which failed to attend. The meeting convened Sept. 25 at UN headquarters in New York.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the Article XIV conference for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in New York on Sept. 25. (Photo: CTBTO)The treaty text allows for conferences every other year to discuss approaches to encourage the signatures and ratifications that are still necessary to bring the treaty into force. According to Article XIV of the treaty, the agreement cannot enter into force until it has been signed and ratified by the 44 countries listed in Annex 2. Eight of those states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States—have yet to deposit their instruments of ratification.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov condemned the United States, which avoided the conference, for failing to ratify the CTBT, calling this “the main destabilizing event.” Moscow ratified the CTBT in 2000.

During his remarks, Lavrov also declared that Russia has “not staged a single nuclear explosion” since observing the global moratorium on nuclear testing in 1991 and intends to continue observing the moratorium, but only so long as “other nuclear states follow the same line.” His remarks likely allude to a May statement made by the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, that “Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard outlined” by the treaty. The United States has yet to provide any credible information to back up that statement.

In addition to Lavrov, foreign ministers and other diplomats representing nearly 50 countries spoke to support the treaty’s entry into force. Signed in 1996, the pact prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any nuclear explosion” no matter what the yield, anywhere in the world.

Since the last conference in 2017, two countries have ratified the CTBT: Thailand in September 2018 and Zimbabwe in February 2019. Another, Tuvalu, signed it in September 2018. In total, there are now 168 ratifications and 184 signatures.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, opened the conference, saying unequivocally that there is “no substitute” for the CTBT. Nakamitsu declared that the entry into force of the CTBT “must be a priority,” a call that the 50 states-parties in attendance, as well as the European Union and a group of more than 40 leaders from civil society, reinforced in their own statements.

Many states additionally stressed the importance of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which is responsible for developing and operating the treaty’s global monitoring and verification system. In his statement, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo highlighted the organization’s achievements, specifically with regard to the International Monitoring System (IMS), which constantly monitors the world for any signs of nuclear explosions.

The IMS is nearing completion and, when finished, will consist of 337 facilities worldwide. “The progressive build-up of the [IMS],” Zerbo said, “has resulted in a level of maturity, readiness, and relevance that has been demonstrated on numerous occasions and in a variety of circumstances.”

Most recently, the IMS demonstrated its importance after an accident that set off an explosion and release of radioactivity off the coast of Russia that involved Moscow’s development of a new nuclear-powered, long-range cruise missile. Two days after the Aug. 8 incident, the CTBTO reported that some IMS stations in Russia began to halt transmissions of data. By Aug. 13, five of the seven radionuclide stations in Russia had gone silent, although when two came back online a week later, they backfilled information to the CTBTO.

The United States stayed away from an international meeting focused on bringing the CTBT into force.

U.S. Considers Open Skies Treaty Withdrawal


November 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The Trump administration appears to be preparing to withdraw the United States from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty, according to lawmakers and media reports.

A Russian Tu-154 aircraft used for Open Skies flights awaits its mission at a Kamchatka air base in 2005. (Photo: OSCE)House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) first sounded the alarm about a possible U.S. withdrawal in an Oct. 7 letter to National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty and strongly urge you against such a reckless action,” Engel wrote. “American withdrawal would only benefit Russia and be harmful to our allies’ and partners’ national security interests.”

Engel did not specify the source of the reports that prompted his letter.

Slate columnist Fred Kaplan reported on Oct. 9 that former National Security Advisor John Bolton pushed for withdrawing from the treaty before departing the administration in early September. Following Bolton’s departure, Kaplan wrote, White House staff continued to advocate for withdrawal and persuaded President Donald Trump to sign a memorandum expressing his intent to exit the treaty. The Omaha World-Herald reported that same day that the memorandum directed a withdrawal by Oct. 26.

Trump has not, however, formally announced a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty and ongoing discussions have revealed differing views within the administration about whether to do so.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Oct. 30 that "the United States has not withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty."

"I've consulted with our ambassadors to NATO and the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and ... conveyed ... their view that we should continue to be members of the treaty," he added

Sullivan added that the administration has yet to consult with allies or Congress on a possible withdrawal and that any decision to withdraw would require the unanimous support of NATO "to make sure we don't do damage to our NATO alliance."

The Open Skies Treaty, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states-parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency of military activities, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all treaty parties.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking members of the foreign relations and armed services committees, respectively, joined Engel in an Oct. 8 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper denouncing a possible withdrawal. The lawmakers wrote that pulling out of the treaty “would be yet another gift from the Trump administration to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.” They also noted that the treaty “has been an essential tool for United States efforts to constrain Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

Eleven other Senate Democrats, led by Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), wrote a separate letter to the secretary of state on Oct. 25 urging the administration not to exit the United States from the treaty.

Republican lawmakers also expressed concern about ditching the treaty. In an Oct. 8 statement, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) stated that he has “yet to see a compelling reason to withdraw” from the treaty, given the “valuable access to Russian airspace and military airfields” the United States gains from the treaty.

Several U.S. allies and partner nations, including Ukraine, are publicly calling for the preservation of the treaty, which was a topic of discussion at the High-Level NATO Conference on Arms Control and Disarmament held in Brussels on Oct. 25.

Daniel Drake, head of the Euro-Atlantic Security Policy Unit of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told a British parliamentary committee on Oct. 23 that the treaty “continues to perform an important role in transparency and risk reduction in the conventional arms control space."

The treaty “is one of the basic international treaties in the field of European security and arms control,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “Ukraine is interested in maintaining and implementing this treaty,” the paper reported on Oct. 27.

The United States and several allies in December 2018 conducted an “extraordinary flight” over eastern Ukraine under the treaty. The flight followed a Russian attack in late November 2018 on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mari Zakharova said in an Oct. 8 statement that Russia had no comment on the concerns raised by U.S. lawmakers because the United States has made no official statement about withdrawing from the treaty.

“Russia is committed to its obligations under the treaty and exhibits the utmost flexibility for maintaining it,” she added.

According to the treaty, states-parties must give 72 hours advance notice before an overflight. At least 24 hours in advance, the observing state-party must supply its flight plan, which the host state-party can only modify for safety or logistical reasons. No territory is off-limits under the treaty.

A dispute between Georgia and Russia over the inclusion of Russian observers on flights over Georgia prevented agreement on quotas for 2018, thereby freezing all flights. Normal flights resumed in 2019. (See ACT, April 2019.)

In recent years, disputes over implementation and concerns from some U.S. officials and lawmakers about the value of the treaty have threatened to derail the pact.

For example, Washington raised concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty, citing in particular Russia's restriction of observation flights over Kaliningrad to no more than 500 kilometers and within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In response, the United States has restricted flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska.

Zakharova said that Russia would lift the ban on flights near Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Georgia met “its commitments on receiving Russian missions,” but “Tbilisi has not changed its position so far.”

The House-passed version of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization act included a provision that would reaffirm congressional commitment to the treaty and prohibit the use of funds to suspend, terminate, or withdraw from the agreement unless “certain certification requirements are made.” The Senate version of the bill did not include a similar provision. The House and Senate continue to negotiate a final version of the bill.

The Trump administration may abandon the 1992 treaty that allows mutual overflights of traditional adversaries.

U.S. Seeks ‘New Era of Arms Control’


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos and Kingston Reif

The Trump administration continues to say it would like a new arms control agreement with Russia and China while remaining silent on the possibility of extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Moscow, according to U.S. and Russian officials.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks at a White House press conference on Oct. 2, when he publicly called for extending New START in the presence of U.S. President Donald Trump.  (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)During a session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Oct. 10, Thomas DiNanno, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, stated that the administration is seeking “a new era of arms control, one in which Russia and China are at the negotiating table and willing to reduce nuclear risks rather than heighten them.”

“Today, the Cold War approach, with its bilateral treaties that covered limited types of nuclear weapons or only certain ranges of adversary missiles, is no longer sufficient,” he added. DiNanno did not mention New START except to say that some of the new long-range nuclear delivery systems under development by Russia would not be subject to the agreement.

In an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times, he referenced New START specifically, saying that “technology has rapidly changed” and pointing out “not what New START does, but what it doesn’t do in the 2020 deteriorating security environment.”

DiNanno did not explain how the United States plans to achieve a broader agreement with Russia and China.

Details on such an agreement also were not forthcoming from the White House. In an Oct. 21 interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump said, “I believe that we’re going to get together with Russia and with China, and we’re going to work out our nuclear pact so that we don’t all continue with this craziness.” China has repeatedly stated that it is not interested in joining multilateral talks with the United States and Russia on arms control at this time.

In the aftermath of the end of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August, New START is the only remaining arms control agreement limiting the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. The Trump administration is expected to make a decision on whether to extend the treaty next year. New START allows for an extension of up to five years, until 2026, if the presidents of the United States and Russia agree to do so.

In an Oct. 11 interview, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called on the United States “to stop wasting time” regarding an extension of New START. “There is almost no time left” before the treaty expires, he said. “At least, it is important to understand what they plan to do with the treaty.”

Ryabkov added that “the extension period is subject to discussion. We are poised to exercise flexibility in this respect.”

Although Russia emphasizes the importance of extending New START, Moscow argues that any future nuclear arms reduction agreement should be multilateral and address a broad array of factors that impact strategic stability.

In a statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11, Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said these factors include “unrestricted deployment of the U.S. global missile defense, development of high-precision strategic offensive non-nuclear weapons, prospects for deployment of strike weapons in outer space, destruction of the international system of arms control treaties and agreements, [and] attempts to weaken defense potential of other countries by using illegitimate methods of unilateral pressure, bypassing the UN Security Council.”

Meanwhile, Fu Cong, director-general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reiterated Beijing’s position that it does not plan to participate in talks on arms control with the United States and Russia. Instead, he urged the United States to respond to the Russian call to extend New START, “while substantially reducing its gigantic nuclear arsenal and creating favorable conditions for other nuclear-weapon states to join in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

U.S. allies in Europe continue to express their support for prolonging New START.

In October, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became the first head of state to publicly call for an extension of New START in a public appearance with Trump.

During a joint press conference on Oct. 2, Niinisto said, “Some of us remember the worst years of cold war in [the] 1960s. There was no agreement at all, just Cold War. We can't let the situation return [to having] no agreement at all about arms control, and that is why it is important to try to negotiate new agreements and to continue…New START.”

Trump did not respond to Niinisto’s comments on the treaty.

New START, set to expire in February 2021 unless extended, caps deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads and 700 missiles and heavy bombers each.

The U.S. State Department in October released updated information on the current status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces limited by the treaty. As of Sept. 1, the data show the United States deploys 1,378 warheads on 668 missiles and heavy bombers. Russia deploys 1,426 warheads on 513 missiles and heavy bombers.

In addition, the State Department reported that as of Oct. 17, the United States has conducted 14 inspections in Russia this year, and Moscow has conducted 14 inspections in the United States. A total of 18,889 notifications have also been exchanged according to New START requirements.

NATO Rejects Russian Missile Proposal

NATO rejected an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to impose a moratorium on deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, shown here in Munich in February, said recently that a Russian proposal on intermediate-range missiles was not "credible."  (Photo: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)The proposal, according to NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a Sept. 26 statement, was not “a credible offer” and “ignored the reality on the ground.” Lungescu specifically pointed to Russia’s deployment of the formerly illegal ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729 as a reason why Putin’s offer was not legitimate.

On Oct. 23, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that the proposal was not “credible,” but also stated that, “at the same time, we aspire for a constructive relationship with Russia.”

Russia has repeatedly floated the moratorium proposal in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty. The 1987 pact led to the elimination of 2,692 U.S. and Soviet conventional and nuclear-armed, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

At the beginning of October, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov called for the two countries to “come to grips” on the issue of deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. He also echoed comments made by Putin after the U.S. test on Aug. 18 of a ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty. “We will produce such [ground-launched intermediate-range] missiles,” Putin said, “but we will not deploy them in the regions where no ground-based missile systems of this class manufactured by the U.S. have emerged.”

John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said on Sept. 30 that although the Defense Department has “started development programs on intermediate-range missiles,” the department does not “have any specific plans at this time for deployments anywhere.”—KINGSTON REIF and SHANNON BUGOS

Washington hopes to include China in future nuclear arms control talks.

U.S. Reveals Assessment of Russian Explosion


November 2019
By Shannon Bugos

The United States has determined that a Russian recovery mission of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, known as Skyfall by Western intelligence agencies, prompted a major explosion in the White Sea in August.

The explosion, said Thomas DiNanno, deputy assistant secretary of state for defense policy, emerging threats, and outreach, was “the result of a nuclear reaction” that occurred during the recovery mission of the missile, which “remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year.” DiNanno made the remarks on Oct. 10 at the UN General Assembly First Committee in New York.

DiNanno elaborated on the Skyfall incident in an Oct. 20 interview with The Washington Times. “From what I understand, the actual radiation cloud was not dangerous per se,” he said, “but our issue is with the lack of transparency and the cover-up and the misinformation.”

Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department on Nonproliferation and Arms Control, delivered Russia’s statement to the First Committee on Oct. 11. Yermakov did not mention the August incident, instead focusing on the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the need for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

The Aug. 8 blast occurred at the Nenoksa Missile Test Site, on the coast
of the White Sea. According to a statement from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation issued two days later, five employees died in the accident, which involved “isotopic sources of fuel on a liquid propulsion unit.” Two military personnel also reportedly died from the blast.

Initial reports claimed that Russia was testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile, named the 9M730 Buresvestnik by Russia and the SSC-X-9 Skyfall by NATO, that Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed in March 2018. (See ACT, September 2019.)

A mysterious August explosion in Russia occurred during efforts to recover a sunken, nuclear-powered cruise missile, according to a U.S. official.

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work

 

For the 10th consecutive year, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded in mid-September without reaching consensus on the adoption of a program of work.

The final report on the conference stated that throughout the 2019 session, successive CD presidents “conducted intensive consultations with a view to reaching a consensus on a program of work,” but despite those efforts, they “did not succeed.” Since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty opened for signature in 1996, the 65-member, Geneva-based CD has managed to adopt a program of work only twice, in 1998 and 2009.

The 2019 session involved 48 formal plenary meetings and 16 informal meetings. In February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged states to overcome their differences and warned that “key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing.” He specifically referenced the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which ultimately collapsed in August, and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is scheduled to expire in February 2021. “I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take a decisive action to safeguard and preserve the existing system through dialogue that will help restore trust,” Guterres said.

In addition to Guterres, representatives from nearly 40 countries addressed the conference over the course of the 2019 session, including the United States and Russia. All these dignitaries, according to the final report, “expressed concern about the Conference’s current situation.”

The CD’s permanent agenda contains 10 items, but there are four core issues: nuclear disarmament, a treaty banning the production of fissile material, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and negative security assurances. The current deadlock is largely attributed to disagreements between members about the prioritization of those issues and attempts to link progress on one issue to progress on another.—SHANNON BUGOS

CD Fails to Adopt Program of Work

Trump Administration May Pull Out of Open Skies Treaty; Last U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Treaty Also at Risk

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For Immediate Release: October 27, 2019

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext. 110; Jessica Sarstedt, 202-802-1835

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Trump administration officials continue to deliberate on the future of the Open Skies Treaty. It was reported earlier this month that the White House is considering a proposal advanced by former National Security Advisor John Bolton to withdraw from the 34-nation agreement, which has been in force since 2002. The Open Skies Treaty allows unarmed information-gathering flights over other parties to the agreement to track and monitor military deployments, including those of Russia.

Open Skies is another critical piece in the overlapping armor of arms control and security agreements negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations that helped bring an end to the Cold War. These agreements have provided predictability and transparency of our adversaries’ military activities, reduced the nuclear weapons threat, and decreased tensions and the risk of military conflict.

A U.S. exit from Open Skies would add to tensions with Russia, especially after the U.S. exit from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, undermine the security of our European allies, and damage the credibility of U.S. leadership. As The Wall Street Journal and others have reported, the government of Ukraine greatly values the Open Skies Treaty and supports full participation and compliance by all parties.

Not only is the Open Skies Treaty at risk, but Trump has also not decided on whether to extend the only remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear weaponry, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in February 2021.

Abandoning these agreements would make more likely something Trump says he wants to avoid. Just this week, Trump reminded everyone that his goal is to not seek an arms race and noted the importance of arms control agreements, specifically driving home the need to place a cap on nuclear weapons arsenals.

On Monday, Oct. 21, Trump said in an interview: “We should all get together and work out something—a cap, have a cap. We don't need 10,000 [nuclear] weapons, [we need to] have a cap.”

The United States and Russia, which possess the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world, already have an agreement in force which caps each country’s nuclear weapons: New START. The treaty:

  • Caps each sides’ strategic deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550,
  • Caps deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers assigned to nuclear missions to no more than 700 each, and
  • Caps deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and bombers are limited to no more than 800 each.

By walking away from either one of these agreements, the United States would set back efforts to reduce military and nuclear tensions with Russia and other nuclear armed states.

Instead, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week, we need to sustain, strengthen, and build upon proven multilateral agreements that provide transparency about Russia’s military activities and that verifiably cap U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, including the Open Skies Treaty and New START.

Experts Available for Comment

Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Department of State, and member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association.

Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation and former Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Lynn Rusten, Vice President, Global Nuclear Policy Program, Nuclear Threat Initiative, and former senior director for arms control and nonproliferation on the White House National Security Council staff and senior advisor in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (AVC), where she led the interagency backstopping process supporting the negotiation and ratification of New START.

Thomas Countryman, former​ ​Acting​ Under Secretary of State ​Arms​ ​Control and ​International Security and ​​Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arm​​s Control Association.

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Background information and experts available on the Open Skies Treaty and New START

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U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, Oct. 17, 2019

Trump Poised to Withdraw from Open Skies Treaty The Trump administration is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty , according to lawmakers and media reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, first sounded the public alarm in an Oct. 7 letter to National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien. “I am deeply concerned by reports that the Trump Administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty and strongly urge you against such a reckless action,” Rep. Engel wrote. “American withdrawal would only benefit...

Abandonment of Open Skies Treaty Would Undermine U.S. and European Security

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For Immediate Release: October 9, 2019

Media ContactsKingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Tony Fleming, director for communications, 202-463-8270 ext 110.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The Trump administration is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from yet another key arms control treaty: the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. If President Trump decides to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty, it would undermine the security of the United States and European allies, including Ukraine, say leading arms control and national security experts.

The Open Skies Treaty entered into force in 2002 and currently has 34 states-parties, including the United States and Russia. The treaty allows for information-sharing that increases transparency about military forces among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.

The treaty allows aerial imaging through short-notice, unarmed observation flights over each other's entire territory. The flights allow observing parties to identify significant military equipment, such as artillery, fighter aircraft, and armored combat vehicles. Open Skies aircraft can only be equipped with cameras verifiably limited to a resolution below state-of-the-art technology, and the treaty disallows the collection of any other electromagnetic signals. The 34 states-parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the collected information available to all treaty parties.

Since entering into force, the United States has conducted almost 200 flights over Russian territory. Russia has carried out more than 70 flights over U.S. territory. U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection.

National security officials, members of Congress, and arms control experts are warning the Trump administration that withdrawal would be "reckless" and would reduce the ability of the United States and European allies to monitor and counter Russian aggression against Ukraine.


QUICK QUOTES

"The Open Skies Treaty provides information about Russian military activities for the U.S. and our allies and provides the Russians with insight on our capabilities. Such transparency reduces uncertainty and the risk of conflict and miscalculations due to worst-case assumptions."
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

"U.S. flights over Ukraine and western Russia have yielded valuable data, easily shared between allies. The flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery. Withdrawing from the treaty would be another step in the collapse of U.S. leadership and further alienate U.S. allies and partners."
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy


RESOURCES


EXPERTS AVAILABLE IN WASHINGTON

To schedule an interview with or appearance by an expert on U.S-Russian arms control agreements, please contact Tony Fleming, director for communications, (202) 463-8270 ext 110.

  • Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, [email protected], (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

  • Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Department of State, and member of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association, [email protected], (571) 264-7053

  • Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, [email protected], 202-277-3478
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The treaty provides transparency about Russian military activities for the U.S. and our allies. Withdrawing from the treaty would be another step in the collapse of U.S. leadership and further alienate U.S. allies and partners, note arms control experts.

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