The United States formally withdrew from another arms treaty with Russia, Fox News reported, saying that Sunday marked the end of the six months since America informed Moscow.
“On May 22, 2020, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositories and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months from the notification date,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Cale Brown said in a statement.
“Six months having elapsed, the US withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies,” he added.
Russia violation of terms of the treaty
The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 between former Cold War foes allowing each party to set-up “unarmed, reconnaissance flights” over each other’s air spaces to collect military data. However, the US has accused Moscow of violating the terms of the deal “for years” by barring the US from flying over some Russian territories where military exercises were taking place or sites such as Kaliningrad — where nuclear weapons are believed to be stored.
The agreement is signed among more than 30 countries and grants each nation to make all its territories available for surveillance flights.
The Pentagon announced the move to pull out from the treaty last May.
“After careful consideration, including input from Allies and key partners, it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in the United States’ best interest to remain a party to this Treaty when Russia does not uphold its commitments,” the statement said.
From then, the Pentagon said “US obligations under the Treaty will effectively end in six months.”
At that time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision was partly due to Russia’s violations of its commitment that puts the US at a disadvantage.
“Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will, unlawfully denying or restricting Open Skies observation flights whenever it desires,” Pompeo said then, noting several instances when Moscow “unjustifiably” blocked US access over a Russian military exercise.
Russia taking advantage of treaty to spy on US, Europe
The US intelligence community has also alleged that Russia is taking advantage of the treaty to “scout and document” US infrastructure that could be targeted by cyberattack, The New York Times reported then.
Ahead of the US official withdrawal from the treaty, several lawmakers already expressed concerns that Russia is the only one benefitting from the deal since the US relies heavily on advanced spy satellites to gather intelligence — and this is not covered in the treaty.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who was earlier proclaimed by the media as the winner of the election, said in May that President Trump’s decision to pull out from the Open Skies Treaty is “short-sighted.”
“In announcing the intent to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, President Trump has doubled down on his short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pompeo said aside from the US, Russia is also focused on surveillance of similar infrastructure in Europe.
“Rather than using the Open Skies Treaty as a mechanism for improving trust and confidence through military transparency, Russia has, therefore, weaponized the Treaty by making it into a tool of intimidation and threat,” the US Secretary of State said in May.
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Source: The Scoop