The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, approved the bill to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, on May 19, 2021. The treaty allows mutual aerial monitoring of military movements and strategic installations of the signatory countries.
The bill was submitted by the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on May 11, 2021. The move followed a similar decision from the Trump administration on November 22, 2020, citing “repeated violations from Russia.”
The Russian administration feared that despite the United States’ official withdrawal, other signatory countries, especially members of NATO, could transfer the information obtained within the framework of “Open Skies” flights to Washington. Thus, on January 15, 2021, it announced it would also withdraw from the Treaty.
The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992, and ratified on January 1, 2002, by the members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Each country must accept a number of observation flights, the “passive quota”, and carry out as many as it received, the “active quota”. Once the flight is carried out, the data collected is available to all signatories.
From the moment each party officially notify the other depositories of their withdrawal, they have 6 months to reverse the process. However, this seems unlikely as US President Joe Biden’s administration voiced its concern that reintegrating the organization would send the “wrong message” to Russia and “undermine” its position on arms control.
Before the end of May 2021, the first of two Boeing OC-135B observation planes used by the United States Air Force in the framework of the Treaty should be sent to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), colloquially known as the Boneyard, in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, United States.