Trump Withdraws from Open Skies Treaty
Effective November 22nd, the United States is no longer a member of the Treaty on Open Skies signed with Russia and 32 other nations following the Cold War.
“The United States, along with our Allies…have lived up to our commitments and obligations under the treaty, [while] Russia has flagrantly and continuously violated the treaty in various ways for years,” argues Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “This is not a story exclusive to just the Treaty on Open Skies, unfortunately, for Russia has been a serial violator of many of its arms control obligations and commitments.”
“Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere, we will pull out,” said Trump in May when he first announced his intentions to withdraw.
The Treaty on Open Skies – one of the most expansive international efforts to promote openness and transparency regarding military activities – established a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants and was designed to prevent misunderstandings and limit the escalation of tensions between nations. The treaty, signed in 1992, has become somewhat outdated due to the presence of satellites.
Russia has violated the treaty multiple times, refusing flyover access in areas of neighboring Georgia, restricting flights over Kaliningrad (where it likely has nukes pointed at major European cities), blocking US-Canadian flights over a military exercise in Russia, and directing American planes to use an airfield in Crimea while at the same time utilizing the treaty to validate unnecessary flights over President Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey and the White House.
“Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will,” said Pompeo. “Its approach to treaty implementation has fatally undermined the very intent of the treaty as a confidence-and-trust building measure.”
Critics have described Trump’s decision to withdraw as ‘reckless,’ though it seems there is no longer a reason to maintain the treaty if the Russians have found a way to abuse it. This is the same reason Trump withdrew from the INF Treaty with Russia in August.
“Instead of tearing up treaties that make us and our allies more secure, President Trump…should remain in the Open Skies Treaty and work with allies to confront and resolve problems regarding Russia’s compliance,” said President-elect Joe Biden.
Pentagon leaders have already promised to share intelligence from satellites with European allies to compensate for any loss of information resulting from the US departure.
President Trump is using his last months in office to remove loopholes and tighten national security before Sleepy Joe enters the White House. In fact, Trump is doing his successor a huge favor because Biden will have the opportunity to renegotiate the parameters of any treaty he wants to rejoin.