Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Russian President Vladimir Putin)

Putin signs law for Russia exit from Open Skies


Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday (June 7) to formalize Russia’s exit from the Treaty on Open Skies, a pact that allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries. Last month, Russia’s lower house of parliament unanimously adopted the bill. The Russian parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, followed suit on June 2, also backing the measure unanimously. Of note, the U.S. left the treaty in November last year.

After Washington announced its withdrawal, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in January that the country had started domestic legal procedures for the official pullout from the treaty.

Moscow said on Monday that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the treaty had “significantly upset the balance of interests” among the pact’s members and had compelled Russia to exit. “This caused serious damage to the treaty’s observance and its significance in building confidence and transparency, (causing) a threat to Russia’s national security,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The decision by the Russian leader comes ahead of a highly anticipated summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden in Geneva on June 16.

Biden initially signaled his administration could reverse his predecessor’s move to quit the accord, but then confirmed late last month Washington would not reenter the Open Skies Treaty.

The treaty was first proposed in 1955 by former US President Dwight Eisenhower to de-escalate Cold War tensions.

At the time, Soviet Union Supreme Premier Nikita Khrushchev laughed off the idea as an “espionage plot”. But when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved, the idea was revived and pushed forward.

This eventually took the form of a treaty between NATO members and former Warsaw Pact nations that went into effect in 2002 with 35 signatories. More than 1,500 flights have been conducted under the treaty since it took effect. The pact allows members to request copies of images taken during surveillance flights carried out by other members. A country under surveillance is given a 72-hours’ warning ahead of a flight and 24-hours’ notice of the flight path, to which it can suggest modifications.

With reporting by TASS, Reuters and TRT