USA says pulling out of Open Skies treaty, citing Russian violations

USA says pulling out of Open Skies treaty, citing Russian violations

This photo from 2007 shows Czech soldiers inspecting cameras on a U.S. Boeing plane at a military airbase in Pardubice, Czech Republic, as part of the agreement.

Russia has not violated the treaty and nothing prevents the continuation of talks on technical issues that the U.S. says are the violations by the Russian side, Grushko said.

The Open Skies Treaty allows nations to fly above each other's territory on military reconnaissance flights as a measure to help bolster confidence neither country is imminently preparing for war.

"Russia didn't adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere, we will pull out", Trump told reporters on May 21. "We're going to pull out, and they're going to come back and want to make a deal".

One administration official said extensive discussions were held with USA allies leading up to the decision but ultimately Washington decided "it is no longer in our interest" to participate in it.

In a statement released online, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the move "very regrettable" and hit at the Trump administration's "general policy" of going after arms control agreements.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the United States could reconsider if Russian Federation complies with the treaty.

The U.S. began notifying the other 33 signatories to the accord that it was giving the required six months' notice to leave.

The US withdrawal from the treaty will affect the interests of all of its participants, who are also members of NATO, RIA state news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Thursday. Russia limited the flight time of observation flights over the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and set up an exclusion corridor along the border of the Russian-occupied regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Exiting the treaty, however, is expected to strain relations with Moscow and upset European allies and some members of Congress.

A Russian military plane reportedly flew over Chicago in August past year, while another reportedly was seen in the skies near Nevada's Area 51, according to a report in April 2019. It still took until January 2002 before the treaty entered into effect.

The Open Skies Treaty was originally proposed in 1955 by President Dwight Eisenhower but was rejected by the Soviet Union.

Aging equipment also is a problem. Russian restrictions also make it hard to conduct observation in the Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland that is home to Russia's Baltic fleet, they said.

Earlier this month, 16 former senior European military and defense officials signed a statement supporting the treaty, saying a USA withdrawal would be a blow to global security and further undermine the worldwide arms control agreements.

If the US does exit, Open Skies would be the third major global military pact Trump has withdrawn the USA from, coming after the president spiked the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.

He and other US officials have said that of the three dozen states who signed onto the treaty, "Russia alone" is responsible for the violations.

America's European allies are keen to keep the treaty going. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a statement about Trump's plan. And he added that by leaving the agreement, the US won't have to pay "nearly a quarter-billion dollars in recapitalization money for our OC-135 Open Skies Aircraft fleet".

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