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US to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty, as Trump blames Russia

12:00 | 22/05/2020

The United States announced its intention on Thursday to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries.

 

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us to withdraw from open skies treaty as trump blames russia
Donald Trump blames Russia while intending to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty (Photo: New York Post)

Trump blames Russia for the decision

President Donald Trump said Thursday that Russian violations make it untenable for the U.S. to stay in a treaty that permits 30-plus nations to conduct observation flights over each other's territory, but he hinted it's possible the U.S. will reconsider the decision.

The Open Skies Treaty that governs the unarmed overflights was initially set up to promote trust and avert conflict between the U.S. and Russia. The Trump administration informed other members of the treaty that it will pull out in six months because Russia is violating the pact and imagery collected during the flights can be obtained quickly at less cost from U.S. or commercial satellites.  

"Russia didn't adhere to the treaty. So until they adhere, we will pull out, but there's a very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together," Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for Michigan.  

"So I think what's going to happen is we're going to pull out and they (the Russians) are going to come back and want to make a deal," Trump said. He added: "I think something very positive will work."

The U.S. announcement that it plans to leave the treaty is expected to strain relations with Moscow and upset some members of Congress and European allies, which benefit from the imagery collected by Open Skies flights conducted by the U.S, reported by VOA. 

us to withdraw from open skies treaty as trump blames russia
The president hinted negotiations possibility with Russia (Photo: Thanh nien)

Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien said the president has made clear that the United States will not remain a party to international agreements being violated by the other parties and are no longer in America's interests. He said Russian violations prompted Trump last year to pull out of the 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia.  

That treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).  

Mr. Trump’s decision may be viewed as more evidence that he is preparing to exit another major arms treaty remaining with Russia: New START, which limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. It expires in February, weeks after the next presidential inauguration, and Mr. Trump has insisted that China must join what is now a U.S.-Russia limit on nuclear arsenals.

Even as the administration disclosed Mr. Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Open Skies agreement, the president held out the possibility of negotiations with the Russians that could save American participation in the accord, reported by New York Times.

“There’s a chance we may make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together,” he said outside the White House. 

us to withdraw from open skies treaty as trump blames russia
Meanwhile, Russia criticized the US decision (Photo: AFP)

Russia criticized the US while NATO to hold urgent discussion

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko criticized the U.S. decision.

“Our position is absolutely clear and is invariable: The withdrawal of the U.S. from this treaty will come as yet another blow to the system of military security in Europe, which is already weakened by the previous moves by the administration,” Mr. Grushko said. 

Grushko, who is the deputy minister overseeing relations with NATO and the European Union, said Trump was trying to justify the exit from a “fundamental treaty” via “technical issues” that should be resolved within the treaty.

Meanwhile, NATO ambassadors are to hold an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss US President Donald Trump’s announcement he was pulling his country out of the Open Skies Treaty with Russia, a diplomat told AFP.

The planned meeting of the ambassadors making up the North Atlantic Council — the top political body guiding NATO — follows Trump’s declaration on Thursday that the US would leave the pact effective in six months’ time unless his administration deemed Russia had come back into line with it.

The meeting, to be held Friday afternoon Belgium time, was to analyse the consequences of Trump’s announcement, the diplomat said.

NATO allies – and other countries like Ukraine – have been pressing Washington not to withdraw from the treaty, and Trump’s decision could aggravate tensions within the alliance. The administration also pulled the United States out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last year, according to SCMP.

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