North Atlantic Council meeting discusses US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty and pins the blame on Russia (again)

24 May 2020

The North Atlantic Council (NAC) met at ambassadorial level on 22 May to address Washington’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. It is unclear who asked to convene the meeting, but it seems likely that it was the United States in order to win support of NATO allies for its withdrawal decision.

US President Donald Trump on 21 May officially initiated the six-month withdrawal process from the Open Skies Treaty (see backgrounder below). Despite this being the third arms control treaty withdrawal by the Trump administration—the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and the INF Treaty in 2019—in a statement after the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pinned the blame squarely on Russia. He said that for many years Russia had "imposed flight restrictions inconsistent with the treaty, including flight limitations over Kaliningrad, and restricting flights in Russia near its border with Georgia". "Russia's ongoing selective implementation has undermined the Open Skies Treaty", he added.

The Secretary General also noted that Washington would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia respected the treaty's terms, and said NATO allies were engaging with Moscow to seek its early return to compliance.

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