Statement on the Open Skies Treaty

24 May 2020

After the Open Skies Treaty, What Fate for New START?

A Treaty on Open Skies was initially proposed by President Eisenhower in order to allow unarmed aerial surveillance flights with the purpose of increasing the transparency of military forces and activities and reducing the risk of surprise attack. Another Republican President, George H.W. Bush revived the idea and negotiated the treaty, which was signed on March 24, 1992. The treaty entered into force in 2002 with 35 signatory countries, involving basically the members of NATO and (the former) Warsaw Pact.

Now the latest Republican President, Donald Trump, has announced that the US will withdraw from the treaty, making allegations of Russian violations of the treaty. No other party to the treaty sees grounds for abandoning it and America’s NATO allies are eager to keep it. This new American move is adding another step to the dismantlement of the system of arms control agreements.

President Trump already withdrew from the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty) that was signed by President Reagan and President Gorbachev in 1987. The next important deadline is the extension of the New START treaty, that is expiring in February 2021. The dramatic consequences of the collapse of the system of arms control agreements cannot be exaggerated. Everything should be done in order to preserve the only remaining constraint on nuclear relations between Moscow and Washington. It is urgent that the New START agreement be extended beyond February 2021, as permitted by the terms of the treaty.

Sergio Duarte, President of Pugwash
Paolo Cotta Ramusino, Secretary-General of Pugwash
Steven E. Miller, Chair of the Pugwash Executive Council