U.S. Officially Withdraws From Open Skies Treaty Due To Russian Violations, Trump Administration Says

(RepublicanInformer.com)- It’s official: The United States has withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty.

Back in May, the Trump administration gave notice that it’d be exiting from the international agreement that was signed in 1992. Six months later, the administration made it official.

As Robert O’Brien, the White House’s national security adviser, said in a statement on Sunday:

“Today marks six months since the United States submitted our notice of withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies. We are now no longer a party to this treaty that Russia flagrantly violated for years.”

He also said President Donald Trump has “never ceased to put America first by withdrawing us from outdated treaties and agreements that have benefitted our adversaries at the expense of our national security.”

The treaty applied to 34 member countries and the United States, and set rules for aerial surveillance. The treaty provided a framework that allowed countries to have aircraft fly reconnaissance missions as long as there was mutual consent by both countries.

The Trump administration says Russia undermined the agreement and initiated “flagrant abuse” of it. In a press release issued in May, the State Department explained the administration’s thinking behind the issue. It read:

“Russia’s implementation and violation of Open Skies … has undermined this central confidence-building function of the Treaty — and has, in fact, fueled distrust and threats to our national security — making continued U.S. participation untenable. Rather than using the Open Skies Treaty as a mechanism for improving trust and confidence through military transparency, Russia has, therefore, ‘weaponized’ the Treaty by making it into a tool of intimidation and threat.”

Russia has issued restrictions on surveillance flights over Kaliningrad as one example of the country’s abuses of the Treaty. The Trump administration also pointed to Russia’s refusal to allow surveillance over military exercises in Russia, as well as its using the Treaty to claim they have sovereignty over Crimea.

Even though the U.S. is withdrawing from the Treaty, the administration emphasized that it is committed to sharing intelligence with its allies, which is one of the main functions the treaty served.

China condemned the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Treaty, even though it’s not even a member country. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on Monday:

“This move by the U.S. undermines military mutual trust and transparency among relevant countries, is not conducive to maintaining security and stability in relevant regions and will also have a negative impact on the international arms control and disarmament process.”

President-elect Joe Biden hasn’t said one way or the other whether he intends to re-join the treaty once he takes office in January. He has said that he would re-join other multilateral organizations that the Trump administration abandoned in the last four years, though.

And in May, Biden said in a statement that when Trump announced the withdraw, the president “doubled down on his short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership.”

He continued:

“I supported the Open Skies Treaty as a Senator, because I understood that the United States and our allies would benefit from being able to observe — on short notice — what Russia and other countries in Europe were doing with their military forces.”