A little discussed portion of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the $716 billion US military spending bill also defunds US participation in Open Skies Treaty. The move was presented as a way to punish Russia.
Effective since 2002, the Open Skies Treaty has 34 participants. The treaty allows nations to carry out unarmed surveillance flights over one another’s nations, theoretically to build confidence that none of them are secretly building up military forces.
Russian Deputy FM Sergei Ryabkov issued a statement of regret on Tuesday over the US suspension of the treaty. Russian MPs suggested this was a prelude to a new arms race, and would lead to a US arms buildup that dishonoring the treaty is meant to hide.
The language in the NDAA demands an assessment of what Russian surveillance flights over the US are for, and claimed such flights could expose certain American counterintelligence “vulnerabilities.”