May 21, 2020

Chairman Risch Statement on Administration’s Decision to Withdraw from Open Skies Treaty

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement in response to the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty:

“I support the president’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. The Russian Federation’s documented and continuing lack of compliance with this treaty follows Russia’s material breach of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, its violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, its “suspension” from the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, and its violation of the zero-yield standard for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among other issues. This year’s State Department Compliance Report highlighted a new Russian violation in 2019, when Russia denied a U.S.-Canadian flight over a major military exercise. This is in addition to ongoing violations regarding the overflight of Russian military installations. These unprecedented violations make clear Russia’s lack of commitment to the treaty.  

“Originally intended to be a confidence-building measure, the Open Skies Treaty has certainly built confidence that Putin bears hostile intent toward the United States and its allies and partners. For years, senior U.S. defense and intelligence officials have stated that the treaty has outlived its usefulness to the United States and presents significant risks. They have noted the central role of the treaty in Russia’s intelligence collection against the United States, including its threat to our most critical infrastructure, and the significant advantage that the treaty provides Russia. 

“I recognize the value that U.S. allies place on the information-sharing aspects of the treaty. The administration should pursue additional means of intelligence and information sharing with our allies. 

“Arms control remains an essential element of U.S. foreign policy, but it must be modernized. As the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said, Open Skies was designed for another era. In this new era for arms control, the United States must pursue agreements that actually protect the security of the United States and promote international peace and security. When presented with persistent noncompliance from Russia or others, it must be ready to withdraw rather than further damage U.S. security.”

###