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Open Skies Treaty Review Conference

Ambassador Donald A. Mahley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Arms Control
U.S. Delegation to the Open Skies Consultative Commission
Washington, DC
February 14, 2005

Fifteen years ago, while on the National Security Council staff, I participated in a meeting about revitalizing the Open Skies Treaty under President George H. W. Bush's Presidency. Today, I am pleased to sit here as the Head of Delegation for the first Review Conference. As you know, the Treaty on Open Skies was negotiated toward the end of the Cold War and signed by all members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact on March 24, 1992. The Open Skies Treaty established a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territories of its signatories. The Treaty was designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging of military forces and activities of concern to them. In this regard, Open Skies is a clear success.

The United States believes the primary value of the Open Skies Treaty remains to enhance confidence and security within Europe and the trans-Atlantic region, and recognizes that the concept may serve as the basis for additional regional applications. The concepts of openness and transparency, which are the backbone of this Treaty, are also the fundamental tenets of democratic governance, free market reform, and, in effect, European stability. The political process of reviewing and accepting the openness and transparency concepts embedded within the Open Skies Treaty may assist governments transitioning to more open and representative governance.

Since the Open Skies Treaty entered into force in January 2002, over 140 missions have been conducted between the States Parties. The U.S. has conducted 17 missions and values the close cooperation and spirit of the States Parties in implementing the Treaty. We have seen value not only in active missions, but also in the engagement opportunities provided by Joint Training Flights with many of our partners and Allies. In assessing the functioning of the Treaty thus far, we believe that the best approach to employing aerial observation regimes as a confidence-building measure outside of the OSCE region would be to develop bilateral or regional arrangements separate from the Open Skies regime itself.

Implementation of the Treaty is not over; we believe that it has just begun. In the first Treaty years, States Parties collectively addressed several unexpected challenges. The OSCC worked actively to resolve these issues in order to facilitate future Treaty implementation. Our continued success in dealing with new issues as they arise will allow for the Treaty to continue functioning as a flagship agreement, providing a regime of confidence-and-security-building measures. I hope to see many more years of smooth implementation of its commitments. While there is some room for improvement, I am convinced that the implementation of the Open Skies Treaty has contributed to an increased level of confidence that did not yet exist a decade ago.

We have noted that Open Skies assets and experience may have potential use for environmental imaging and conflict prevention. We agree with the sentiments expressed by several States that doing so does not require changes to the Treaty or Treaty implementation. The U.S. supports efforts for environmental disaster relief by States Parties that are interested in using their assets for such purposes.

In closing, we would like to express our appreciation to the many individuals and governments who supported the Treaty during its long incubation period and built the foundation which has contributed to its impressive record of success in its initial years after entry into force.


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