Plan To Withdraw From Open Skies Treaty Raises Alarm

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reports:

Reports emerged this week that the White House may be moving “soon” on withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty, a nearly two-decade-old agreement that allows 34 countries to fly and share reconnaissance missions over each other to promote military cooperation and transparency.

Last month, defense secretary Mark Esper said he was freezing a long-overdue replacement of the aging OC-135B aircraft used for flights under the treaty. “Until we make a final decision on the path forward, I am not prepared to recapitalize aircraft,” Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Meanwhile, foreign policy veterans from multiple administrations have called on the White House to reconsider. This week, Democratic leaders from the House and Senate committees on armed services and foreign relations said that the action would be “not only shortsighted, but also unconscionable.”

ABC News reports:

The Open Skies Treaty allows the pact’s 35 signatories, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation flights over each other’s territories with the intention of providing transparency about military activities to avoid miscalculations that could lead to war.

Defense hawks have been urging Trump to withdraw for months. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) introduced a resolution in October calling for a withdrawal. Cruz, Cotton and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) last month also penned a letter to Trump arguing for a withdrawal.