Russia ‘continuously and flagrantly’ violated the treaty, says Mike Pompeo
The U.S. has given notice that it will exit the Open Skies Treaty (OST), an agreement that allows countries to monitor signatories’ arms development by conducting surveillance flights over each other’s territories. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced the withdrawal, said Russia had “continuously and flagrantly” violated the treaty.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the deal could be amended or a new one could be made.
“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,” he said on Thursday.
The idea behind the OST, first proposed in the early years of the Cold War by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, came to fruition decades later and was signed in 1992, during the George H.W. Bush presidency and after the Soviet Union had collapsed. The OST came into effect in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration and it allows its 34 signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of treaty countries. The U.S. has used the treaty more intensively than Russia. Between 2002 and 2016, the U.S. flew 196 flights over Russia (in addition to having imagery from other countries) compared to the 71 flights flown by Russia, as per a BBC report. Chris Ford, a senior U.S. diplomat for non-proliferation, also cited changes to the security environment as a reason for the U.S. exiting the OST.
The U.S.’s exit last year from another arms deal the West had signed with Russia — the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty — as well as its imminent departure from the OST has raised the strong possibility that the Trump administration may not renew the New Start Treaty, an agreement signed by the Obama administration with Russia that caps Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenal. The New Start Treaty is due to expire next February.
The Trump administration has been worried that extending New Start would negatively impact an arms deal with China and Russia. The State Department told the U.S. Congress earlier this year that it is concerned that China’s nuclear stockpile could be doubled if the New Start Treaty continued as is, without including China, as per a report in Foreign Policy magazine.
Marshall Billingslea, the Trump administration’s Special Envoy for Arms Control, said, on Thursday, that the New Start Treaty suffered from “some serious verification inadequacies”, and that the U.S. intended to establish a new arms control regime which would include China.
Meanwhile, Russia said it would continue to honour its commitments under the treaty. “As long as the treaty is in force, we intend to fully follow all the rights and obligations that apply to us,” Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told RIA Novosti news agency.
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