Russia is violating provisions of the Open Skies treaty by barring Air Force OC-135s from observing key strategic areas, according to the State Department’s 2015 arms control treaty compliance report, released on June 5. “We have been unable to conduct overflights of either Russia or Ukraine near their shared international border” since the shoot-down of a civilian airliner in the area last year, arms control undersecretary Rose Gottemoeller said in a June 10 speech. Russia is also blocking access to parts of Kaliningrad—its strategic military enclave wedged between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania—as well as Russian-occupied Georgia, and the conflict zone in Chechnya. “The United States continued to oppose any airspace restriction inhibiting an observing party’s right” under the treaty, and both the US and Poland formerly raised the issue with Russia, the document states. “Russia has veered off course. We call on Russia to join us in improving security in Europe and to return to full implementation” of Open Skies, Gottemoeller said, addressing the Open Skies treaty review conference in Vienna, Austria. The US cited Russia for violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty banning mid-range nuclear missiles, last year, and Russia has long been in breach of a conventional arms agreement.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.