Russia’s withdrawal from the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies (OST) is not unexpected for Ukraine and other European State parties to the Treaty.
In that way, Moscow’s course deliberately launched back in the mid-2000s reaches culmination. This course aims to dismantle all the regimes in Europe, which ensured the military restraint, limited the deployment of offensive weapons, and prevented sudden large-scale military activities in the Euro-Atlantic. Through the dismantling of arms control regimes, Russia was building the conditions for covert preparation for sudden armed aggressions against Ukraine and Georgia. Until now, Russia continues such the aggressive expansionist course.
In particular, Russia stopped fulfilling in good faith its treaty obligations and violated it blatantly as early as in 2008-2010 by committing the armed aggression against Georgia. As a result, a part of the occupied Georgian territory was “de facto” removed from the Treaty application area.
In 2014, Russia occupied the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol and some areas of Lugansk and Donetsk regions, also removing them from the scope of the OST. In total, as a result of Russia’s invasive actions, the area of over 57,500 square km have been removed from the operation of the Treaty, of which more than 44,000 square km are the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. This area is larger than the territory of some European countries: Slovakia, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands or Belgium.
During 2010-2020, the Russian Federation was also deliberately committing other systematical violations trying to conceal its military activities, which forced the United States to withdraw from the Treaty that by the time had already been undermined by Russia and had not fully met its main goal. Instead of building and improving trust, transparency, and predictability among all its states-parties, the OST was being misused by Moscow as a means to legitimize the illegal results of Russia’s aggression and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
Therefore, Russia alone bears responsibility for the continuing destruction of the “Open Skies” regime and the erosion of the international arms control architecture.
Ukraine certainly recognizes the crucial role of conventional arms control for maintaining regional and international peace and security. This is why Ukraine remains a conscientious and active participant in all conventional arms control regimes, of which the Treaty on Open Skies is an integral component. To this day, the Treaty remains the only multilateral international arms control agreement that is still in force and covers the states on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ukraine resolutely condemns Russia's withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies.