The Trump administration has warned that the US would withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies Treaty, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, alleging that Russia had repeatedly violated the terms of the international pact.
The Open Skies Treaty, proposed by then US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, was signed in 1992 and took effect in 2002 with an aim to let member nations make surveillance flights over each other’s countries to build trust.
Trumps’ Warning to Pull out from the Treaty
The move of the Trump administration would be the latest attempt for the US to pull out of a major global treaty. Alleging Russia’s violation of the treaty, US Senior officials said the pullout would formally take place in six months, but President Donald Trump held out the possibility that Russia could come into compliance. Trump told reporters, “I think we have a very good relationship with Russia. But Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty. So until they adhere, we will pull out.”
Trump has cast doubts about whether Washington would seek to extend the 2010 New START accord, which imposes the restriction of not more than 1,550 each of strategic nuclear arms for both the US and Russia, since it was expired in February. Nonetheless, Trump has repeatedly called for China, estimated to possess about 300 nuclear weapons, to join the US and Russia in talks on an arms control accord to replace New START but China rejected Trump’s proposal.
Daryl Kimball, the chief of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, attacked that Trump’s decision to leave the treaty was “premature and irresponsible.” Similarly, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Fox News Channel later on Thursday that he did not expect the US to leave the New START accord.
US Accusation of Russia’s Violation of the Pact
From Moscow, RIA state news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as he said that Russia had not violated the treaty and was ready for the continuation of talks on technical issues that Washington called violations.
The US officials cited some of the incidents for Russia’s violation of the treaty’s terms such as by restricting U.S. overflights of Russia’s neighbor Georgia and the Russian military enclave in Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast. In addition, they added that Russia had been using its own overflights to American and European territory to identify critical US infrastructure for a potential attack in time of war.
A senior administration said US officials had begun talks in recent days with Russian officials about a new round of nuclear arms negotiations to “begin crafting the next generation of nuclear arms control measures.”
Some experts put concerns that the US exit from the treaty, which would halt Russian overflights of the US, could also prompt Moscow’s withdrawal, which would end overflights of Russia by the remaining members. Thus, the move would weaken European security at a time when Russian-backed separatists are considered to have holding parts in Ukraine and Georgia.
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