Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

U.S. set to exit the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ CopyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OST, INF Treaty, New START policy

Mains level : US-Russia power tussle


The U.S. has given notice that it will exit the Open Skies Treaty (OST) in response to Russia who had allegedly violated the treaty.

The New START, INF and now the OST …. Be clear about the differences of these treaties. For example- to check if their inception was during cold war era etc.

Open Skies Treaty (OST)

  • OST is an agreement that allows countries to monitor signatories’ arms development by conducting surveillance flights over each other’s territories.
  • The idea behind the OST was first proposed in the early years of the Cold War by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.
  • It came to existence decades later and was signed in 1992, during the George H.W. Bush presidency and after the Soviet Union had collapsed.
  • The OST came into effect in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration and it allows its 34 signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of treaty countries.

Issues with the OST

  • The U.S. has used the treaty more intensively than Russia.
  • Between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. flew 196 flights over Russia (in addition to having imagery from other countries) compared to the 71 flights flown by Russia.

Significance

  • The U.S.’s exit last year from other arms deal the West had signed with Russia — the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty — as well as its imminent departure from the OST has raised the strong possibility that the Trump administration may not renew the New Start Treaty.
  • The New START Treaty was signed by the Obama administration with Russia that caps Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenal. The New Start Treaty is due to expire in February 2021.
  • The Trump administration has been worried that extending New START would negatively impact an arms deal with China and Russia.
  • It is concerned that China’s nuclear stockpile could be doubled if the New Start Treaty continued as is, without including China.

Back2Basics: New START pact

  • The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) pact limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers and is due to expire in 2021 unless renewed.
  • The treaty limits the US and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, well below Cold War caps.
  • It was signed in 2010 by former US President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
  • It is one of the key controls on superpower deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • If it falls, it will be the second nuclear weapons treaty to collapse under the leadership of US President Donald Trump.
  • In February 2019, the US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Moscow of violating the agreement.

INF Treaty

  • Under the INF treaty, the US and Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km.
  • It exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.
  • The INF treaty helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe.
  • It also built some trust between Washington and Moscow and contributed to the end of the Cold War.

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