U.S. To Exit Open Skies Treaty Over Russian Violations
By RFE/RL May 21, 2020
The United States has announced that it will withdraw from the Open Skies treaty because of violations of the agreement by Russia.
Washington on May 22 will notify the other 34 signatories to the accord that it was giving a six-months notice to leave, as required by the treaty, the State Department said in a statement.
"We may, however, reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty," it said.
"I think we have a very good relationship with Russia," U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters. "But Russia didn't adhere to the treaty. So, until they adhere, we will pull out."
He said there was a "very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko said the U.S. departure from the treaty would be a "blow" to European security.
Trump was trying to justify the exit from a "fundamental treaty" via "technical issues" that should be resolved within the treaty, Grushko said.
The 18-year-old treaty, which includes Russia, aims to increase international stability by allowing signatory nations to conduct surveillance flights over one another's territories to observe military installations and other objects.
The White House has accused Russia of violating the treaty, saying Moscow has been blocking the United States from conducting flights over the Baltic Sea city of Kaliningrad and near Georgia, which are permitted by the agreement.
The withdrawal is the latest move by Trump to unilaterally pull the United States from a major global treaty. Last year, Washington withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
The exit is likely to strain relations with Moscow and upset European allies and some members of the U.S. Congress.
The concept of allowing Russia and the United States to conduct aerial reconnaissance flights over each other's territory was first put forward by President Dwight Eisenhower in July 1955. But the Soviet Union balked at the idea.
There was no movement toward a treaty until 1989 when President George H.W. Bush breathed new life into it. It still took until January 2002 before the treaty entered into effect.
With reporting by The New York Times, AP, Reuters, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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