President Trump to withdraw from open skies treaty

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Per Peter Baker of the NYT, President Trump has decided to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure they are not preparing for military action.

TheHill reports President Trump plans to withdraw from another major arms control agreement, the Open Skies Treaty, multiple sources confirmed to The Hill on Thursday.

The Open Skies Treaty allows the pact’s 35 signatories, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation flights over each other with the intention of providing transparency about military activities to avoid miscalculations that could lead to war.

A senior administration official and a Senate aide confirmed the decision, which was first reported Thursday by The New York Times.

The treaty, which went into force in 2002, has long been in the crosshairs of defense hawks, who argue Russian violations give Moscow an unfair advantage over Washington.

“President Trump has made clear that the United States will not remain a party to international agreements that are being violated by the other parties and are no longer in America’s interests,” National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said in a statement later Thursday that did not explicitly address the president’s plans.

O’Brien referenced the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), both of which Trump has withdrawn the United States from.

Russia in the past has restricted flights over Kaliningrad and areas near its border with the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Because of those restrictions, an April report from the State Department said “the United States continued to assess that Russia was in violation of the Treaty on Open Skies” in 2019, a determination first made in 2017.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a vocal critic of the treaty, has urged Trump to withdraw from it and divert funds spent on the treaty to other military projects over Russia’s abuse of the pact. Cotton lauded Trump’s decision in a statement Thursday in response to reports disclosing the plans.

“The Open Skies Treaty started life as a good-faith agreement between major powers and died an asset of Russian intelligence. For Mr. Putin, the treaty was just another scheme to snatch a military and surveillance advantage over the U.S. and NATO,” Cotton said.