United States

Trump to pull US out of Open Skies Treaty

The State Dept has confirmed that the US will withdraw from the three-decade-old arms treaty, with several government officials blaming Russia's persistent violations of the pact.

Trump to pull US out of Open Skies Treaty
MANDEL NGAN AFP

The United States intends to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, a major accord which allows participating nations to carry out aerial surveillance flights over each other’s territories to monitor military activity.

President Donald Trump said the decision to withdraw the US from the treaty was due to Russia’s repeated violations of its terms.

"Russia didn't adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere, we will pull out," Trump told reporters outside the White House on Thursday, adding that the move could force Russia to renegotiate a new agreement.

“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."

This will become the third arms treaty arms that Trump has abandoned since 2018, following his move to withdraw the U.S from the Iran Nuclear Accord and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

US will seek official pull-out from Open Skies on Friday

Following Trump’s comments, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, confirmed that the US would seek official withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty on Friday.

“Tomorrow, the United States will submit notice of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies to the Treaty Depositaries and to all other States Parties to the Treaty,” said Pompeo in a statement.

“Effective six months from tomorrow, the United States will no longer be a party to the Treaty. We may, however, reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Russian response to US Open Skies withdrawal

Russia's Foreign Ministry has insisted that it had not violated the treaty and claimed that the Trump administration’s intentions are to "derail all agreements on arms control”.

"We reject any attempts to justify a way out of this fundamental agreement," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.

"Nothing prevents continuing the discussions over the technical issues, which the US is misrepresenting as violations by Russia.”

Democratic criticism

Several Democrats have criticized the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) stating that it was “a slap in the face to our allies in Europe".

He added: “This decision weakens our national security interests, isolates the United States since the Treaty will continue without us, and abandons a useful tool to hold Russia accountable."

Meanwhile, Michael Hayden, the retired US Air Force general and former National Security Agency director, has described the decision as “insane” in comments made on Twitter.

The Open Skies Treaty, which has been signed by more than 30 nations, was established in 1992 to strengthen international security following the fall of the Soviet Union and is viewed as an important mechanism in the control of nuclear arms proliferation.