Washington, May 21 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Open Skies Treaty, a multilateral agreement to guarantee transparency regarding weapons control, and he accused Russia of corrupting the pact at the same time that he offered to negotiate a new accord with Moscow.
Trump’s announcement weakens even more the infrastructure created at the end of the Cold War to control the weaponry of the world’s two major nuclear powers after Washington also withdrew last year from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Moscow.
“Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty. Until they adhere we will pull out,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday, going on to add that there was a “very good chance we’ll reach a new agreement” with Russia.
The Treaty on Open Skies, the implementarion of which is monitored by the Vienna-based Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, has been in force since 2002 and allows its 34 signatory nations to overfly any part of one another’s territory, photographing from the air, with the aim of ensuring that other countries or rivals are not preparing military attacks.
The official notification of Washington’s withdrawal from the pact will be presented on Friday, which implies that within six months – that is, by Nov. 22 – the US will no longer be a party to the agreement.
“This is not a story exclusive to just the Treaty on Open Skies, unfortunately, for Russia has been a serial violator of many of its arms control obligations and commitments,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement, adding that Washington could reconsider its withdrawal if Russia once again fully complies with the pact.
The US says that Russia has prevented air surveillance of its military exercises and does not allow flights over regions where it is believed that Moscow has nuclear weapons that could reach Europe or near the separatist regions in the country of Georgia, namely South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Trump was particularly incensed that a Russian aircraft flew directly over his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in 2017, according to The New York Times.
Russia responded to the announcement by accusing the US of abandoning an agreement fundamental to ensuring security in Europe.
“We reject any attempts to justify a way out of this fundamental agreement,” although “Nothing prevents continuing the discussions over the technical issues, which the US is misrepresenting as violations by Russia,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
Grushko noted that the US had already withdrawn from the INF Treaty a year ago on the basis of “invented excuses.”
Trump’s decision could increase tensions with certain NATO allies who remain staunch defenders of the pact, which was first proposed by Washington in 1955.