By Yang Chun
The US announced to officially withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies on November 22, drawing close attention from the public and strong dissatisfaction from various parties. The international community has expressed regret and concern over Washington’s official exit from the treaty, and Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported worriedly that US withdrawal from the arms control treaty one after another would inevitably bring devastating effects onto the global nuclear management system.
The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on the very day of America’s withdrawal from the treaty, calling the move detrimental to Europe’s security and the interests of America itself as well its allies. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed his regret over the US withdrawal in his statement on November 22, saying that Germany has always regarded the treaty as an important part of the arms control architecture, which has helped to foster mutual confidence-building and thus also to enhance security in the northern hemisphere from Vladivostok to Vancouver.
The US has backed out of a long list of multilateral agreements and organizations since Trump came into office, including the Paris Agreement, UNESCO, the Iran nuclear deal, and the INF Treaty. Its official exit from Open Skies Treaty this time reflects that Washington still remains wedded to the Cold War mindset, the “America first” policy and unilateralism, and it betrays its commitments to the world. Its latest move will undermine the military mutual trust and transparency among regional countries, damage regional security and stability, and impose adverse effects on the international arms control and disarmament process.
Analysts said that it’s hardly possible for the US to re-join the treaty again because that would require approval from the Senate, which is still controlled by the Republican Party. Experience also shows that Uncle Sam made no return to the arms control treaty after its quit.
Moreover, although Russia still urges other treaty members to fulfill their duties therein strictly, it is generally deemed that not all American allies would pay due attention to Moscow’s calls as some European countries that have close ties with the US may take a passive stance on fulfilling their obligations or divulging information about Russia to the US even if they haven’t withdrawn yet. That explains Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov’s remarks on November 24 that Moscow doesn’t exclude the possibility of leaving the Open Skies Treaty too after the US, which will leave the treaty a de facto empty shell.
It’s foreseeable that US unilateral moves, including its constant exit from one international treaty and organization after another, will likely to pose a growing threat to the world’s strategic balance and stability. Quitting international treaties at its will should not be the attitude and practice commensurate with a major power. The international community expects the US to take seriously the concerns of other contracting parties represented by Russia and of the world as a whole, and resolve divergences through dialogue.