President Donald Trump has long made it clear that when it comes to major international agreements, the U.S. will only take part in ones that serve Americans’ best interests.
With that in mind, the Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Open Skies Treaty, putting an end to the United States’ involvement in the deal over what officials alleged were repeated violations by Russia, Fox News reported.
“Tomorrow the United States will formally submit its notification of its decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty,” the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday, according to Fox. The statement went on:
After careful consideration, including input from Allies and key partners, it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in the United States’ best interest to remain a party to this Treaty when Russia does not uphold its commitments. U.S. obligations under the Treaty will effectively end in six months.
“The prism of today’s reality”
According to Fox, the Open Skies Treaty is a deal involving nearly three dozen countries that allows member nations to fly over other members’ airspace to conduct surveillance in hopes of building trust across international borders. “It went into force in 2002,” Fox reported.
Unfortunately, as was explained in detail in a statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Russia has not been holding up its end of the bargain.
“As the President has made clear, the United States must take a clear-eyed look at any agreement through the prism of today’s reality and assess whether such agreement remains in the U.S. interest,” Pompeo wrote Thursday. “After careful consideration, including input from Allies and key partners, it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in America’s interest to remain a party to the Treaty on Open Skies.”
The secretary of State conceded, however, that the U.S. may “reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.”
“Weaponizing and poisoning”
As NPR reported, Democrats quickly pounced on the Trump administration move as one that “directly harms our country’s security and breaks the law in the process,” in the words of New York Rep. Eliot Engel.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman went on in a statement published Thursday:
The Treaty on Open Skies has been a pillar of stability, transparency, and security for the United States and our European allies. […] Yet this President is once again walking away from our commitments to allies and partners and undermining American security with little to show for it.
[…] The President should be focused on combating the coronavirus, not dragging America toward a costly and potentially devastating nuclear arms race.
But according to Pompeo, the U.S. can’t afford to let aggression from Russia slide.
“We will not contribute to further weaponizing and poisoning with distrust a Treaty that was intended to build confidence,” he said in his Thursday statement. “The Open Skies Treaty was meant to contribute to international security, but it has been twisted and perverted in its implementation and now serves Russian purposes inimical to that security.”
Make no mistake: Russia alone bears responsibility for these developments, and for the continued erosion of the arms control architecture. We remain committed to effective arms control that advances U.S., Ally, and partner security, that is verifiable and enforceable, and that includes partners that comply responsibly with their obligations.