Russia retreats from Open Skies


Russian aviation journalist and photographer Piotr Butowski reports on the latest aerospace news and technology developments from the Russian Federation

A Tu-214R Mullet reconnaissance aircraft, seen here before being painted, is used by Russian military intelligence and has powerful electronic sensors and a self-defence system
Piotr Butowski

Russia has announced its intention to leave the Open Skies Treaty.

However, if you carefully read the official statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 15, it is a relatively 'soft' exit. Moscow has “launched domestic procedures for withdrawal from the Treaty” according to the statement, suggesting it’s not the final decision. It looks more like an attempt to put pressure on other countries to obtain various concessions. The immediate cause of Russia's intention to leave the Open Skies Treaty is the US abandonment of the treaty in November 2020. We will see how the situation develops in the coming weeks.

The Open Skies Treaty was signed on March 24, 1992 in Helsinki and has been joined by 35 countries in the following years; Russia ratified the agreement on 26 May, 2001. The treaty provides for inspection flights to be carried out by aircraft equipped with reconnaissance sensors over the territory of other member states. The agreement limits the capabilities of the reconnaissance equipment.

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