By Jack Phillips
The United States will pull out of the Open Skies Treaty—an arms control pact—with Russia, according to the Department of State on Sunday.
“On May 22, 2020, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositaries and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months from the notification date,” State Department deputy spokesperson Cale Brown said in a statement.
“Six months having elapsed, the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies,” Brown added.
The Open Skies Treaty is an agreement to allow nations to carry out reconnaissance flyovers to obtain military data and intelligence. For years, the United States has accused Russia of violating the terms of the agreement, not allowing its flights over Russian territory.
President Donald Trump earlier this year said he wanted to leave the agreement, which was signed following the end of the Cold War. It came as Trump and administration officials stated that they have been tougher on the Kremlin than previous administrations.
“While the United States, along with our Allies and partners that are States Parties to the treaty, have lived up to our commitments and obligations under the treaty, Russia has flagrantly and continuously violated the treaty in various ways for years,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in May. “This is not a story exclusive to just the treaty on Open Skies, unfortunately, for Russia has been a serial violator of many of its arms control obligations and commitments.”
And earlier this summer, the Department of Defense (DOD) remarked that it was not in the best interest of the United States to partake in the accord any longer.
“It has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in the United States’ best interest to remain a party to this treaty when Russia does not uphold its commitments,” said the DOD in a statement.
The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by former President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, but the Soviet Union refused to take part. Former President George H.W. Bush again suggested the treaty, and in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, negotiations started. About three-dozen nations have taken part after it went into effect in 2002.
Meanwhile, another treaty with Russia known as the New START is slated to expire in February 2021. It limits the United States and Russia to having no more than 1,550 nuclear weapons deployed at a given time.
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