US to Withdraw From ‘Open Skies’ Arms Control Treaty

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The Pentagon said on Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and official notification of this decision will be sent today.

The rationale for the decision is that it binds the U.S. which adheres to its rules, while others flaunt noncompliance.

Russia violates its obligations under the Treaty and have been defying the agreement since 2017 by limiting flight distances over the Kaliningrad Oblast to 500 (km) and denying flights within 10 (km) of the Georgian-Russian Border.

In September 2019 Russia denied a flight over a major military exercise, which prevented the specific transparency the Treaty is meant to provide.

“We remain committed to effective, verifiable, and enforceable arms control policies that advance U.S., Allied, and partner security, and we will continue to work together to achieve those ends,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.

Russia is using the Treaty to support their own propaganda, the DoD said, and as an attempt to justify their aggression against its neighbors and could be used for military targeting against the U.S. and our Allies.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Open Skies Treaty was negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker. In theory, the Treaty was created to increase transparency, cooperation and mutual understanding among the USA and its Allies.

“The concept of Open Skies, starting with President Eisenhower, was to give insight and build confidence related to military intentions, among other things,” said Marshall Billingslea, the newly appointed arms negotiator and veteran of the George W. Bush Pentagon, told the New York Times. “But it no longer is serving that purpose because of so many Russian violations.”

U.S. President Donald J. Trump said he remains hopeful that negotiations with the Russians could keep America participating in the tenants of the treaty, in a new version that could come once the current ends.

“There’s a chance we may make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together,” he said. “I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to pull out and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal.”

The Times said the decision may also presage a U.S. exit from the remaining major arms treaty with Russia, New START. This limits the two countries to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. The treaty expires in February, weeks after the next presidential inauguration. The president has also insisted that China must join what is now a U.S.-Russia limit on nuclear arsenals.

“You reach a point at which you need to say enough is enough,” Mr. Billingslea said. “The United States cannot keep participating in this treaty if Russia is going to violate it with impunity.”

 

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