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Russia's foreign ministry has announced that the country will withdraw from the 'Open Skies' treaty in a further sign of the deterioration in relations between Russia and the west, and which will come as a concern for many NATO states.
- Open Skies, which was signed in 1992 and came into force in Jan 2002, allows for unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the territory of another signatory, in effect allowing countries to check that others are not building up troops or engaging in any other potentially aggressive activities.
- The US withdrew in Nov 2020, due to alleged violations of the treaty by Russia. This was opposed by numerous other signatories, notably Ukraine, which argued the US withdrawal might mean a Russian withdrawal (something that has come to fruition), limiting Kiev's ability to keep a check on Russian military activity on Ukraine's eastern border.
- There remains the prospect that the incoming Biden administration could re-sign Open Skies, but even this would not be a guarantee of the treaty being salvaged.
- Without Open Skies in full operation both Russia and NATO states will have a less clear picture of the others' military activities, leading to potential escalations in tensions.