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The Trump administration is determined to withdraw from a 28-year-old treaty to reduce the risk of an accidental war between the west and Russia by allowing reconnaissance flights over the territory of the other.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which postponed a full meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on the Open Skies Treaty (OST), Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed to proceed with a US quit, two sources familiar with administration planning.
A statement of intent is expected soon, with an official withdrawal notification issued a few months later, possibly at the end of the fiscal year in September. The United States would cease to be a party to the treaty six months after that, so if a new president was elected in November, the decision could be overturned before taking effect.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reconnaissance flights under the treaty were suspended until April 26.
The United States has complained of what it says are Russian breaches of the treaty, signed in 1992 and in force since 2002: limiting flights over the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad to less than 500 km and creating ‘an exclusion corridor along the border of the Russian occupied regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia imposed the limitation on Kaliningrad after a long zigzagging overflight of Poland in 2014, which closed aviation for one day. Russia authorized an extended flight over Kaliningrad in February.
One of the reasons Esper cited the US withdrawal is to save money by not replacing the two Boeing OC-135Bs the United States uses for its Open Skies reconnaissance flights.
Congress appropriated $ 41.5 million last year for the replacement cost, but the Pentagon’s spending request released in February contained no budget for the new planes. Esper told Congress that he was awaiting a decision from the president.
Three Republican hawks in the Senate, Richard Burr, Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, sent a letter to the administration in March calling for withdrawal for cost and safety reasons.
“The costs of the OST go far beyond unnecessary spending and directly erode our national security by allowing Russian spying on the United States,” the senators wrote.
Supporters of the Open Skies Treaty claim that the United States and its allies benefit more than Russia, with three times as many flights over Russian territory as Russia’s flights over the United States and Allied territory.
In addition, the American withdrawal would not prevent Russian reconnaissance flights over American bases in Europe.
President Bush revived the Open Skies concept in May 1989. At the
time, the United States believed that the Open Skies concept would
reduce the chances of military confrontation and build confidence in
Europe by providing participants with the ability to collect information
about the military forces and activities of others in the treaty. In
addition, even though the United States and Russia can collect this type
of information with sophisticated observation satellites,
originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: kloejen
Because Russia has only been paying lip service to the treaty for years now, while we're meeting our obligations with regards to it. A treaty is only effective when both sides abide by it.