U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a press statement on May 21 signaling U.S. withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies (OST), citing Russia’s “flagrant and continuous violation” of the international agreement, including by not allowing “observation flights within a 10-kilometer corridor” along its border with occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.
The Secretary of State maintained that, by refusing to permit observation flights near Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, Russia sought to “advance false claims that these occupied territories are independent states.”
Pompeo noted the U.S. might “reconsider its decision” if Russia demonstrated “a return to full compliance” with the “confidence-building Treaty.”
America’s chief diplomat noted that, through “selective implementation” of the accord, Russia “has increasingly used Open Skies as a tool to facilitate military coercion.” Therefore, he stressed, “Russia weaponized the treaty by making it into a tool of intimidation and threat.”
Signed in 1992, the Treaty on Open Skies is an international agreement establishing a regime of unarmed observation flights over the territories of its 35 member states, including the U.S., Georgia and Russia.