WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was pulling the United States out of the 18-year-old international Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over other countries because Russia has been violating it.
The U.S. began notifying the other signatories to the accord that it was giving the required six months’ notice to leave.
Trump accused Moscow of ignoring terms of the treaty. “I think we have a very good relationship with Russia," he told reporters at the White House. "But Russia didn't adhere to the treaty. So, until they adhere, we will pull out.”
The president did note there was a possibility, though, that some new agreement might be reached at a future date.
“There’s a very good chance we’ll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together," he said. "But whenever there’s an agreement that another party doesn’t agree to — you know, we have many of those agreements around the world, where it’s a two-party agreement but they don’t adhere to it and we do — when we have things like that, we pull out also. That’s why, with the arms treaties, if you look at the arms treaties, we’re probably going to make a deal with Russia on an arms treaty. And China will be, maybe, included in that. We’ll see what happens.
"So I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to pull out, and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal. We’ve had a very good relationship lately with Russia. And you can see that with respect to oil and what’s happening with oil,” he said.
The treaty has allowed 35 countries to conduct surveillance flights over each other’s territory to look at military installations, an effort aimed at international peacekeeping.
But the U.S. contends that Moscow has been violating the treaty by blocking it from conducting flights over the Baltic Sea city of Kaliningrad and Russia’s southern border near Georgia, both of which are permitted by the agreement.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that Russia has been “cheating for many years.”
Russia has denied violating the treaty.
The Open Skies withdrawal is Trump’s latest move during his 3½-year presidency to remove the U.S. from international agreements enacted by previous presidents that he considers unfair to American interests.
Last year, Washington withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, and earlier it abandoned the international Paris climate control accord, a trade treaty with Pacific Rim nations, and a deal with Iran to restrain its development of nuclear weapons.
The concept of the Open Skies treaty was first advanced in the decade after the end of World War II by President Dwight Eisenhower. The Soviet Union balked at the idea at the time, but the U.S. again pushed for a pact in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush. It was finally adopted by the required 20 countries in January 2002.