President Donald Trump to withdraw US from Open Skies treaty, citing Russian violation

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on May 21, 2020. (AFP photo)


US President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, the Trump administration’s latest move to pull the US out of a global treaty.

Senior US officials said Trump plans to inform Moscow on Friday that Washington will pull out of the pact, which will formally take place in six months.

The Trump administration said Russia has repeatedly violated the pact’s terms. The treaty allowed member nations to make surveillance flights over each other’s countries to build trust.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the move could be a prelude to Washington also withdrawing from the New START Treaty which limits the number of nuclear missiles the United States and Russia can deploy.

The Trump administration also pulled the United States out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia last year.

One administration official said extensive discussions were held with US allies before the decision but ultimately Washington decided “it is no longer in our interest” to participate in it. US allies have pressed Washington to remain in the treaty, and Trump’s decision to withdraw could heighten tensions within the alliance.

The Open Skies treaty, proposed by US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, was signed in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush and took effect in 2002.
US officials claimed Russia has violated the terms, such as by restricting US overflights of Russia neighbor Georgia and its military enclave in Kaliningrad. They also said Russia has been using its own overflights of American and European territory to identify critical US infrastructure for potential attack in a time of war.

The New York Times said Trump was also unhappy about a Russian flight over his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey three years ago.

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