The United States has officially withdrawn from another arms control pact with Russia on Sunday, marking the end of a six-month notification process for informing Moscow, US officials told Fox News.
The Trump administration withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty, which was signed between former Cold War enemies in 1992, to organize unarmed reconnaissance flights over the other’s territory to gather data on military forces.
However, the United States has accused Russia of violating the agreement for years by banning flights over Russian territory, including Kaliningrad, where nuclear weapons are suspected and within the reach of major European capitals.
“On 22 May 2020, the United States exercised its right under Article XV, paragraph 2, of the Open Skies Treaty by giving the Depositaries of the Treaty and all States Parties a decision to withdraw from the Treaty, in force six months after the date of “After a six-month period, the US withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a party to the Open Skies Treaty.”
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Earlier this summer, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that “it has become clear that it is no longer in the best interests of the United States to remain a party to this treaty when Russia does not honor its commitments.”
At the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move was inspired, at least in part, by Russia’s violations of the agreement.
“While the United States, along with our allies and partners who have been parties to the treaty, have fulfilled our commitments and obligations under the treaty, Russia has been grossly and persistently violating the treaty in various ways for years,” Pompeo said in a statement. “This is not a story that only applies to the Open Skies Treaty, unfortunately, as Russia is a serial violator of many of its arms control obligations and commitments.”
The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the treaty comes at a time when the president has made remarks during a virtual G20 summit.
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Prior to the official withdrawal, some US lawmakers also expressed skepticism about the treaty and encouraged it to leave the United States, with Russia being the only beneficiary because the United States relies on advanced space-based spy satellites to gather intelligence not covered by the treaty. In addition, the overflights are seen more as a boost to propaganda for Moscow – which has in the past flown over President Trump’s Bedminster club and the country’s capital in recent years.
Some experts believe that the withdrawal of the United States from the treaty is a sign that Trump is preparing to withdraw from the main arms treaty left with Russia: New START.
This treaty, which is due to expire in February weeks after the next inauguration of the president, limits US and Russian forces to deploying no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads at a time. Trump insisted that China join the current US-Russia border for nuclear arsenals.
Democrats have expressed concern that the withdrawal from the treaty could damage relations with European allies, who rely on it to monitor Russian activities.
President-elect Joe Biden called Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty short-sighted.
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Open Skies was first proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955, but the Soviet Union refused. It was raised again by President George HW Bush, and negotiations began in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union. It entered into force in 2002 and now has 35 signatories.
Ron Blitzer and Rich Edson and the Associated Press of Fox News contributed to this report.