This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a document signaling his administration’s intent to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, the latest in a series of major arms control and disarmament accords that are on the verge of collapse.
The newspaper on October 27 quoted two U.S. officials as saying the document has been signed and added that the White House refused to respond to questions surrounding the issue.
Signed by 34 nations, including Russia, the treaty aims to increase international stability by allowing signatory nations to conduct surveillance flights over one another’s territories, to observe military installations and other areas.
Some U.S. lawmakers and military officials have voiced allegations that Russia was conducting overflights of U.S. territory using advanced camera technology that were more intrusive than past flights.
U.S. administration officials did block a Russian plane using that technology from flying in 2016. Officials later relented, though another delay was imposed at the behest of Republican lawmakers in 2018.
Russia’s first such flight with the new technology took place in April 2019.
In September 2018, after Russia complained about U.S. delays in allowing the Russian flight, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a vocal opponent of the treaty, raised the issue of Russian restrictions.
“The Open Skies Treaty is out of date and favors Russia, and the best way forward is to leave it,” he said.
The treaty is one of several arms control agreements that are on the verge of collapse or have already collapsed.
Earlier this year, after years of accusations toward Moscow, the Trump administration pulled out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
And the New START treaty, which puts limits on the entire nuclear arsenals of both Russia and the United States, is due to expire in 2021, unless the two sides agree to extend it.