United States formally withdraws from Treaty on Open Skies

The United States has formally withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement that sought to build confidence by allowing the 34 participating nations to observe each other's armies through unarmed flybys.

The United States has formally withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement that sought to build confidence by allowing the 34 participating nations to observe each other’s armies through unarmed flybys.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the US State Department said it had been six months since the US notified countries party to the deal that it was withdrawing in May.

As of Sunday, “The United States is no longer a state party to the Open Skies Treaty,” the statement said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Twitter, said that “the United States is more secure” because of the withdrawal, adding that “Russia continues to fail to meet its obligations.”

Russia has been accused of repeatedly violating the deal by blocking surveillance flights around certain areas, including the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and the border with Georgia, as well as denying flights over Russian military exercises.

The arms control agreement, negotiated in 1992, allowed participating nations, including the United States and Russia, to conduct unarmed observation flights over each other’s territory. Each country has an annual quota of how many flights it must accept and how many it can take.

While critics say the pullout is a major blow to America’s allies, it doesn’t necessarily derail the deal, as Moscow has proven more interested in air surveillance of European states than U.S. surveillance. .

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded written assurances from the remaining NATO members that the data they collect from now on will not be shared with the United States. He also said that American bases in Europe would not be exempt from Russian surveillance missions.

‘One more blow’ to gun control

On Twitter, Steven Pifer, a non-resident member of the Brookings Institution’s Gun Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, called the withdrawal “one more blow” from the administration of US President Donald Trump to the efforts of gun control, and called on President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the treaty.

In an article, Pifer noted that, despite the fact that US reconnaissance satellites are superior to the planes allowed in the Open Skies agreement, the treaty has “several advantages.”

These include giving “American allies and partners, who lack sophisticated imaging satellites, the opportunity to collect confidence-building data,” said Pifer, who also noted that aircraft have “greater flexibility” than satellites and that the flights can be used as political statements.

In May, Biden mocked Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty, saying that despite violations by Russia, the United States and its allies “benefit” from the agreement.

“Our allies have made it clear that they want us to remain in the Treaty and to work together to address compliance issues with Russia,” he wrote in a statement in May. “Without us, the Treaty could fall apart. The withdrawal will exacerbate growing tensions between the West and Russia, and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict. “

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