U.S. to quit Open Skies Treaty

22 May 2020

White House The U.S. is to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty, a key international defence pact that allows countries to fly over each other’s air space.

The President of the United States Donald Trump said America would quit the treaty, which is designed to reduce the risk of military miscalculations that could lead to aggression, until Russia adhered to its terms. 

It is the latest major arms control treaty that the U.S. will scrap under Mr Trump - one such initiative was the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. 

“So 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 President told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve had a very good relationship lately with Russia.”  

Robert O’Brien, the White House national security adviser, said the administration had made it a priority that the U.S. “will not remain a party to international agreements that are being violated by the other parties and are no longer in America’s interests.”

The move is highly controversial. “This is insane," tweeted Gen. Michael Hayden, the retired four-star general who served as former National Security Agency director, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence and was President George W. Bush's director of the CIA.

For his part, Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group at Global Zero, noted: “The Open Skies Treaty is part of a set of reinforcing documents which create stability and predictability in and around Europe.

“Trump and his advisers have been systematically destroying those agreements in part because of Russian noncompliance, but when you look at the Trump approach, it's ‘tear it down and don’t put anything in its place and at times, make it harder for people to put anything else in its place’.”

The treaty, which came into force in 2002 and includes 35 countries, allows Russia and most NATO members to conduct surveillance flights over each other’s territories.


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