Can/will the ICAO Assembly punish Russia for its many safety transgressions ?

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Heritage and AEI scholars target ICAO to punish Russia

It has been one of the States of of Chief Importance in Air Transport

Chicago Convention Article 88 is mechanism to embarrass  Putin

US Delegation in Montreal currently has no Ambassador

THE HILL ran an article by two conservative think tank fellows who make a good case that the International Civil Aviation Organization SHOULD NOT REELECT THE RUSSIA to the UN agency’s critical leadership organization, the COUNCIL. More specifically, the authors urge the delegates to the 41st Triennial Assembly to remove these aviation safety violators from the influential States of Chief Importance in Air Transport category.

Kist of Council members today



The transgressions listed in the article are substantial and clearly merit some additional condemnation. HOWEVER…


According with one who knows the history of Assemblies past, the ICAO Assembly of 193 states  never denied a major State a seat on  to the Council. He also recalls that this UN Aviation safety organization’s governing body, a heavy percentage drawn from countries of lesser aviation impact, came a few votes from keeping  US its due status.


Another ICAO expert suggested a different, more creative tactic than the Hill proposal : under Article 88,  the Assembly at the Triennial could suspend Russia’s voting rights. A furtherArticle 88 refinement  would be to continue the suspension until the Russians come into compliance with the ICAO standards.


The Russians historically have avoided criticism from the international community. UN Assembly’s April resolution to suspend Russia’s membership in the Human Rights Council might be instructive.  According to the UN, the censure passed

In favor: 93

Abstained: 59

Against:  24

Human Rights Council


The Triennial is an extraordinary diplomatic exercise. Relationships, formal intergovernmental and informal interpersonal, matter. The US’ ambassador of three months resigned recently; so the existing able staff (State and FAA) will have to guide whoever is named to lead the US delegation.

full assembly


[the above text was greatly enhanced by the expertise {alphabetical order} of Irene Howie, 
Jim Loos and Bill Voss, all of who know ICAO so well. Much of this institution’s work is 
really only known by those who worked in Montreal.]



ICAO Council



Russia’s continued presence on aviation safety council is a travesty

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been, quite literally, criminal. Well-documented allegations include the deliberate targeting of civilians, forced transfer of adults and children to Russia, sexual violence and arbitrary executions. These crimes are being investigated, but other, less spectacular crimes are not.

Russia' s aviation sinsRussian transgressions – such as violations of Ukrainian airspace and endangerment of civilian aircraft – violate the principles outlined in the Convention on International Civil Aviation. As the families of passengers on Malaysian jetliner MH17, shot down by Russian forces over Ukrainian air space in 2014, will agree, Russia must be held accountable.

The place to start is a little-known, but critical international organization based in Montreal. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) codifies international aviation law, standards and practices to ensure safety and security. At once mundane, bureaucratic and complex, the international rules of the aviation road are as critical to civilian safety as actual road rules.

ICAO is limited in what it can do about Russia’s repeated violations of these rules. It has no organizational authority to sanction or act against a transgressor or punish nations for violating ICAO standards and practices. But the small, specialized United Nations agency is not without options.

It has already taken baby steps. In February, the ICAO condemned Russia’s violation of the territorial integrity and airspace of Ukraine and “underscored the paramount importance of preserving the safety and security of international civil aviation and the related obligations of Member States.” Last month, the ICAO called on Russia to immediately cease its infractions of the Chicago Convention relating to the dual registration of aircraft, which “raises safety concerns relating to, among others, the international validity of each airplane’s certificate of airworthiness and radio station license.” 

These statements are a little lame in the face of brazen assaults on the international rule of law. But coming from an organization that has, in the past, been reluctant to address politically fraught matters, and steered well clear of offending Moscow or Beijing, they are a welcome stand.

In addition, ICAO member states can act to ensure that Russia is not rewarded with unnecessary influence within the organization. Specifically, Russia is running for reelection to the influential ICAO Council. The U.S. and allies need to pull out all the stops to block this effort. ICAO’s reputation is already tarnished after years of Chinese leadership. Allowing an international pariah to win reelection to the ICAO Council will further damage its credibility and, worse, give Russia an opportunity to further undermine the ICAO mission.

Unlike ICAO, individual nations do have more pointed options to punish Russia. The United States and others have closed airspace to Russian flights. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)ICAO Headquarters also downgraded its air safety rating for Russia because Moscow’s Federal Agency for Air Transport does not comply with ICAO safety standards. Inside ICAO, Washington should work to have other nations impose similar sanctions. Indeed, the U.S. should push to have ICAO issue a public warning about potential safety concerns about Russia and its airlines.

With a little bit of leadership, the United States (the largest contributor to the ICAO budget) could begin to broaden Russia’s pariah status and reclaim international organizations for legitimate democratic governments. It’s a shame that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger chose to leave his posting as the Biden administration’s ambassador to ICAO after six months. But his departure should not signal a U.S. abdication of responsibility.

U.S. leadership is needed to counter China, Russia and other states that flout international rules and to help ensure that civilian passengers are protected from military aggression.

Brett Schaefer is The Heritage Foundation’s Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs. Danielle Pletka is a distinguished senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.





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