Policy Paper

Open Skies: Beyond “Vancouver to Vladivostok”

in Program

Open Skies is the most extensive confidence-building measure ever negotiated. It opens all of the territory of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and most of the territory of the former Warsaw Pact to unarmed, short-notice observation flights. This observation will provide information and reassurance regarding the military forces and activities of all the parties to the Open Skies Treaty.

The twenty,five countries that signed the Open Skies Treaty in Helsinki, March 24, 1992, extend from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The original signatories did not intend, however, that the benefits of Open Skies should be confined solely to the territory of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. Rather, it was envisioned that the concept of openness, and the mechanisms created by the Open Skies Treaty, could be relevant to many more countries. The preamble of the treaty explicitly recognizes the contribution that the concept of Open Skies could make to security and stability in other regions.

Indeed, the signatories recognized that there were many areas of the world beyond the territory of the initial participants where an increase in openness and transparency could make a significant contribution to the reduction of misunderstandings and the building of stable relations. They foresaw that cooperative aerial observation measures might help mitigate certain long,standing regional conflicts. And they believed that aerial observation could greatly enhance the effectiveness of international peacekeeping, which is assuming an increasingly central role in the management of a wide variety of crisis situations.

The extension of the Open Skies concept to additional areas could occur in one of two forms: either (1) by the accession of additional participating states to the multilateral treaty or (2) by the adoption of the Open Skies idea as a basis for separate agreements on a more limited regional basis. For those states that may be interested in joining the existing multilateral treaty, the treaty sets forth detailed provisions for the accession of new states. For those that may prefer to adopt the idea on a more limited basis, there is the precedent of Hungary and Romania, which have agreed on a bilateral Open Skies pact, in addition to their participation in the multilateral treaty.

This paper looks at the potential for extending the Open Skies concept beyond the original twenty,five signatory states. It considers the roles that aerial observation might fill in the context of today’s changed international and regional security situations, examines the implications of Open Skies aerial observation for the security of additional countries and regions, and explores the potential relationship between Open Skies observation and other efforts to deal with regional tensions and security problems.

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Choose Your Subscription Topics
* indicates required
I'm interested in...
38 North: News and Analysis on North Korea
South Asian Voices