Nonproliferation
Commentary

Crippling the Open Skies Treaty Punishes Allies and the US, Not Russia

in Program

Quote of the week:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

– Albert Einstein

Thanks to the reporting of Steve Liewer of the Omaha World-Herald, we have learned about the latest effort by House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry to drive a stake into the heart of the Open Skies Treaty. Liewer reports that Thornberry has struck funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Authorization Act for two replacement Open Skies aircraft and upgraded sensors because Moscow is misbehaving.

This is an odd way to punish the Kremlin since Open Skies cooperative monitoring flights help the United States and its friends and allies, not Russia. Open Skies missions allow U.S. aircrews to provide ride-sharing opportunities with countries that feel threatened by Vladimir Putin’s revanchist tendencies.

Because Russia is misbehaving, the United States should be doing more to strengthen ties with those threatened by Putin’s actions. This is hard enough to do with the two existing Open Skies aircraft, which were built in 1961 and which suffer from frequent mechanical breakdowns. If they are not replaced – a budget item of $222 million – the United States will eventually become a bystander rather than the leading force behind the Open Skies Treaty. Kudos go to the Trump administration and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for requesting funds for new Open Skies aircraft — something the Obama administration failed to do.

Contrinue reading at Arms Control Wonk.

Michael Krepon is Co-Founder of the Stimson Center.

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