U.S. to leave 3rd ma­jor weapons con­trol ac­cord

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By David Sanger David Sanger is a New York Times writer.

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.

Man­del Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion is bound to fur­ther ag­gra­vate Euro­pean al­lies who are also sig­na­to­ries to the treaty.

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