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Trump Exits Open Skies Treaty, Sparking Fear That New START Treaty Future Is in Doubt

May 21, 2020 (EIRNS)—Administration officials said today that President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Open Skies Treaty and will notify Russia of the U.S. withdrawal on May 22. The treaty, which 35 nations have signed on to, allows member states to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory, to build confidence that none of them is preparing for military action against any of the others, but the U.S. has long complained that Russia is not abiding by the treaty by not allowing flights over certain areas, such as the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. “You reach a point at which you need to say enough is enough,” said Marshall Billingslea, President Trump’s new special representative for arms control. “The United States cannot keep participating in this treaty if Russia is going to violate it with impunity.”

According to the New York Times, Trump’s decision on the Open Skies Treaty raises further doubts that he’ll agree to an extension of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty set to expire next February. Just yesterday, Politico, citing unnamed officials, reported that the administration is considering a short-term extension of the treaty while seeking a new agreement with Moscow that also tries to convince China to come to the table. Experts consulted by Politico expressed concern, however, that a short-term extension might still end up with the treaty lapsing, given the very low probability of China entering arms control negotiations.

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