Wed, 23 Sep 2020

The United States said it would move to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty, accusing Russia of repeated violations of the 18-year-old security agreement.

The announcement, detailed in a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21, marked the latest move by President Donald Trump's administration to pull out of major international treaties.

The moves have prompted alarms from watchdog groups and some members of the U.S. Congress who say it increases the possibility for an arms race or accidental military confrontations.

Washington will provide notification to the other 34 signatories that it will withdraw in six months but may reconsider 'should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty,' Pompeo said in a statement.

Trump also gave mixed messages as he made the announcement, signaling that the move was intended as a bargaining ploy to get Russia to hold new talks on the treaty.

He said there's a 'very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together.'

The United States and Russia have a very good relationship, he told reporters on May 31, 'but Russia didn't adhere to the treaty. So, until they adhere we will pull out.'

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko said the U.S. withdrawal would be a "blow" to European security.

Trump was trying to justify the exit from a 'fundamental treaty' via 'technical issues' that should be resolved within the treaty, Grushko said.

Signed in 1992, Open Skies entered into force a decade later and now has 35 members. The agreement aims to increase international stability by allowing nations to conduct surveillance flights over one another's territories to observe military installations and other objects.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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