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U.S. to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty

By
Don Jacobson
President Donald Trump said Thursday the administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
President Donald Trump said Thursday the administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

May 21 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump confirmed Thursday the administration's intention to withdraw from the Open Skies military surveillance treaty, which was designed to reduce the chances of an accidental war with Russia.

Trump told reporters outside the White House that the move is prompted by actions from Russia.

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"I think we have a very good relationship with Russia, but Russia didn't adhere to the treaty, and so until they adhere to the treaty, we will pull out," he said. "There's a very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together."

Trump's formal notice to Russia, expected Friday, would open a six-month withdrawal period, requiring a meeting of all signatorires within 60 days.

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Signed in 1992, the treaty permits its 34 signatories to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over other nations to gather intelligence. Its main purpose is to build confidence and familiarity between the United States and Russia with the overflights.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said Moscow has prevented U.S. military aircraft from flying reconnaissance missions over the Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad and along Russia's border with Georgia.

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"I have a lot of concerns about the treaty as it stands now," Esper said at a congressional hearing in March.

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Former officials, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn urged the Trump administration in March to keep the treaty.

"At a time when tensions with Moscow are on the rise, the Open Skies Treaty serves as a very useful tool for the United States and our allies to monitor Russian military activities," they wrote in a letter to administration officials. "Unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Open Skies would undermine American allies and friends in Europe."

The United States last summer withdrew from the U.S.-Russian Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which limited development of short-range ground-based missiles.

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