United States pulls out of Open Skies treaty, Trump's latest treaty withdrawal

A Boeing OC-135B Open Skies aircraft- the type used in this week's US-Ukrainian overflight over Russia

Since coming to office in January 2017, Trump has withdrawn from two other major arms control pacts, the 2015 JCPOA agreement to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear weapons program, and the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russian Federation. The Trump administration already has ditched the nuclear deal with Iran, refused to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and declined a Russian offer to extend the 2019 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires next year.

Earlier this year, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper accused Russian Federation of violating the treaty by banning flights over the city of Kaliningrad and other areas near Georgia.

But the U.S. may "reconsider" the decision should Russia "Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty", Pompeo said. The U.S. responded by prohibiting Russian flights over Hawaii and several Air Force bases.

The Open Skies treaty, proposed by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, was signed in 1992 and took effect in 2002.

NATO allies - and other countries like Ukraine - have been pressing Washington not to withdraw from the treaty, and Trump's decision could aggravate tensions within the alliance.

Last month, top Democrats on the foreign affairs and Armed Services committees in both the House and the Senate wrote to Trump accusing the president of "ramming" a withdrawal from the treaty as the world grapples with COVID-19.

The decision could raise questions about Trump's commitment to extending or renegotiating the New START treaty, the only remaining treaty constraining the USA and Russian nuclear arsenals, which imposes limits on the number of US and Russian long-range nuclear missiles. Thirty-four nations have signed it; Kyrgyzstan has signed but not ratified it.

One administration official said extensive discussions were held with USA allies leading up to the decision but ultimately Washington decided "it is no longer in our interest" to participate in it.

Tierney pointed out that following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the treaty has helped provide information to the USA and its allies. But critics of the Trump Administration say this is a reason for fixing the treaty, not abandoning it. "This is important to many of our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, that they have the means to conduct the overflights".

"At its core, the Treaty was created to provide all signatories an increased level of transparency and mutual understanding and cooperation, regardless of their size", he said.

"It's a Republican legacy treaty", said former State Department official Alexandra Bell, now the senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Another said extensive discussions were held with United States allies leading up to the decision but ultimately the administration decided "it is no longer in our interest" to participate in it.

Trump's decision to leave the treaty is "premature and irresponsible", said Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association.

Limitations have also made it increasingly hard to carry out observations of Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania that is home to Moscow's Baltic fleet. Russia limited the flight time of observation flights over the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and set up an exclusion corridor along the border of the Russian-occupied regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.



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