US President Donald Trump announced Thursday his country’s withdrawal from the “open skies” agreement that allows verification of military moves and arms control measures between the signatory countries, against the background of accusing Russia of violating it.
This is the third agreement Trump has decided to withdraw from his country since he came to power, after he withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, and the 1988 mid-range nuclear missile treaty with Russia.
Diplomatic sources told Agence France Presse Thursday evening that an invitation was sent to the ambassadors of the member states of NATO to participate in an emergency session on Friday afternoon to discuss the implications of the decision.
“Russia has not abided by the treaty,” Trump told reporters at the White House shortly before leaving for the state of Michigan, where he is visiting a factory aimed at showing the return of life to the US economy.
“So we will withdraw until they abide,” he said, confirming his announcement of this information published by the “New York Times”.
The US President did not close the door to the possibility of negotiating again the agreement that was signed by 34 countries and entered into force in 2002.
He said, “I think what will happen is that we will withdraw and return to ask for negotiations on an agreement,” adding, “Our relations were very good with Russia in the last period”.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington will officially notify its decision on Friday of the signatories of the agreement, which will open the door to a period of six months before the final US withdrawal.
“We will, however, be able to review the decision if Russia returns to fully comply with the agreement,” he added.
US Department of Defense spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said that Russia “grossly and continuously violates its obligations” contained in the text, adding that Moscow is implementing it “in ways that contribute to the threat of the United States, allies and partners”.
Hoffman pointed to Russia’s refusal to allow allied aircraft to fly less than 500 km from Kaliningrad, between Lithuania and Poland, and cross the border between Russia and Georgia by more than 10 km.
Hoffman said during a briefing, “In this era of competition between the superpowers, we seek to defend agreements that are in the interest of all parties and include our partners who abide by their pledges responsibly”.
The “New York Times” quoted US officials as saying that Trump was also unhappy about a Russian trip over his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey three years ago.
In a statement, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said that the United States “will not remain a signatory to international agreements that are being violated by the rest of the parties and no longer in the interest of Washington”.
He mentioned the two agreements that the United States recently withdrew from.
“We are ready to negotiate with Russia and China a new framework for arms control that bypasses the structures of the past dating back to the time of the Cold War and allows for the preservation of a world of security,” he said.
The Democratic opposition has criticized the decision widely, and Adam Smith and Jim Cooper, the two lawmakers who branded it, described it as a “slap in the face to our allies in Europe”.
The Trump administration has not yet committed to working to renew the US-Russia New Start treaty signed in 2010 and expiring at the beginning of 2021.
This treaty is the last nuclear agreement still in force with the aim of keeping the two-state arsenals below levels of good war.
On Thursday, Russia condemned the “blow” that the United States withdrew from the “open skies” agreement for the security of the European continent.
Russian agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko that “the withdrawal of the United States from this agreement does not only mean a blow to the foundations of European security, but also to the existing military security tools and to the basic security interests of the United States allies themselves”.
This agreement, which entered into force in 2002, allows each of 34 signatory countries to fly over the territory of their partners in order to verify their military movements and arms control measures.
The United States has repeatedly accused Russia of violating the agreement. In March, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a congressional hearing, “They’ve been cheating for years”.
In turn, the Russian official said that the agreement “is not bilateral but rather multilateral.
A decision so surprising that will affect the interests of all parties, without exception.
He added, “There was nothing to prevent the continuation of the discussion on the technical issues that the United States currently presents as alleged violations by Russia,” accusing Washington of undermining “the tool that has served the interests of maintaining peace and security in Europe during the past 20 years”.