U.S. to leave 3rd major weapons control accord
WASHINGTON — President Trump has decided to withdraw from another major arms control accord, according to senior administration officials, and will inform Russia on Friday that the U.S. is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory to assure they are not preparing for military action.
Trump’s decision may be viewed as more evidence that he is preparing to exit the one major arms treaty remaining with Russia: New START, which limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. It expires in February, and Trump has insisted that China must join what is now a U.s.russia limit on nuclear arsenals.
U.S. officials have long complained that Moscow was violating the Open Skies accord by not permitting flights over a city where it was believed Russia was deploying nuclear weapons that could reach Europe, as well as forbidding flights over major Russian military exercises. (Satellites, the main source for gathering intelligence, are not affected by the treaty.)
“You reach a point at which you need to say enough is enough,” said Marshall Billingslea, Trump’s new special representative for arms control. “The United States cannot keep participating in this treaty if Russia is going to violate it with impunity.”
U.S. officials also note that Trump was angered by a Russian flight directly over his Bedminster, N.J., golf estate in 2017. And in classified reports, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies have contended the Russians are also using flights over the U.S. to map out critical infrastructure that could be hit by cyberattacks.
But much of that data is now publicly available, and mapping the network vulnerabilities is best done online.
Trump’s decision is bound to further aggravate European allies who are also signatories to the treaty.
They are likely to remain in the accord, which has about three dozen signatories, but have warned that, with Washington’s exit, Russia will almost certainly respond by also cutting off their flights, which the allies use to monitor troop movements on their borders — especially important to the Baltic nations.
For Trump, the decision is the third time he has renounced a major arms control treaty.
Two years ago he abandoned the Iran nuclear accord, negotiated by President Barack Obama. Last year he left the Intermediaterange Nuclear Forces Treaty, again saying that he would not participate in a treaty that he said Russia was violating. The Open Skies Treaty was negotiated by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Trump, speaking outside the White House, left open the possibility of a renegotiation, though his aides see that as unlikely.
“I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to pull out and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal,” he said.
President Trump’s decision is bound to further aggravate European allies who are also signatories to the treaty.