Washington will also withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, an arms control system that allows signatories to fly over the other’s territory, the French newspaper Le Monde reported.
US allies feared this decision, which US President Donald Trump confirmed yesterday. Washington will unilaterally withdraw from the treaty, which strengthens confidence in the arms control system, allowing its parties, led by the United States and Russia, reciprocal flights of reconnaissance aircraft over their territories to monitor the availability of troops and weapons, BTA reports. .
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that his country will withdraw from the treaty in six months.
Just like in 2018, when the United States withdrew from the medium-range missile treaty, Trump referred to Moscow’s behavior. “Russia has not complied with the treaty, and until it begins to abide by it, we will withdraw from it,” he said. He again praised his relations with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, but stressed that possible new talks in the future could allow part of the arms control system or the conclusion of a new treaty to be maintained.
Like the withdrawal of the United States from the treaty on Iran’s nuclear program, yesterday’s US decision casts doubt on the future of the treaty. “Russia can make a political decision that it is better not to take action at the moment to highlight the behavior of the United States,” said a source familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity.
Created with the support of US President George W. Bush, who outlined its basic principles in the last years of the Soviet Union, the Open Skies Treaty did not come into force until 2002. Russia has been accused of refusing to fly over its enclave of Kaliningrad and the breakaway Georgian republics, which are not recognized by another signatory. Critics also say it has lost its relevance due to satellite monitoring, which is not regulated by the text. The Pentagon and intelligence agencies say in their reports that Russia is using its flights over the United States to map key infrastructure.
However, the decision has been criticized by security experts. “It’s crazy,” former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on Twitter. The unilateral position of the United States can only worry Washington’s allies, who do not have the same satellite facilities to receive information about Russia. A possible withdrawal of Washington would threaten to divide the transatlantic alliance and further undermine “confidence in it as a stable and predictable partner in European security,” said Democrat Elliott Engel, chairman of the House Defense Committee in December. He warns that “the ideological message of this withdrawal” is that the Trump administration “does not feel bound by treaties it considers obsolete,” including when it comes to the security of US allies. The phrase “obsolete treaties” was repeated yesterday by the President of the United States.
Proponents of the Open Skies treaty say it has created a forum for dialogue and co-operation between NATO members and Russia, helping to avoid unwanted escalation.
The new withdrawal of Washington comes before the expiration of another major disarmament agreement between Washington and Moscow – the New START Treaty (for strategic arms reduction). It expires in February 2021, the Le Monde notes, but recalls that its renegotiation seems particularly difficult because Washington wants its new version to include China. However, Beijing is not interested.