The Trump administration on Thursday announced its intention to withdraw from another major global treaty, citing Russia as the cause.
Called the Open Skies Treaty, the accord allows the 35 nations who are members to make unarmed surveillance flights over each other’s countries as way to build trust. The treaty has been in effect since 2002.
Administration officials said that Russia has for years tried to violate the terms by restricting U.S. flights over Russia’s neighbor Georgia and its military enclave in Kaliningrad.
President Trump echoed that sentiment Thursday when asked about his decision to withdraw, but left the door open for further talks.
“I think we have a very good relationship with Russia, but Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere we will pull out. But, there’s a very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together.”
U.S. officials have also said Russia has been using its flights over American and European territories as a way to identify critical U.S. infrastructure for potential attack in a time of war.
A Russian state news agency on Thursday quoted the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister as saying that Russia has not violated the treaty and that the U.S.’s withdrawal would affect all member nations.
NATO allies - and other countries like Ukraine - have been pressing Washington not to withdraw, and the Trump administration’s decision could aggravate tensions within the alliance.
This would be Trump’s third retreat from a major agreement intended to reduce the risk of war – he pulled out of the more than 30 year-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last year and abandoned the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Accord two years ago.
It could also indicate that he will allow the New START treaty to lapse.
That treaty is the last remaining restraint on deployments of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems to no more than 1,550 each.
Abandoning it could trigger a new arms race that China would likely join.