BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump pulls out of ‘open skies’ treaty which lets Russia fly over U.S. military sites, claiming Kremlin repeatedly flouted deal
The United States announced its intention to withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty that permits unarmed aerial surveillance flights over participating countries, saying Russia has repeatedly violated the pact’s terms.
Senior administration officials said the pullout will formally take place in six months, based on the treaty’s withdrawal terms.
It was the latest move by President Donald Trump’s administration to remove the United States from a major global treaty, following withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last year.
The Trump administration notified international partners on Thursday that it is pulling out of a treaty.
Pullout: Donald Trump is leaving the Open Skies treaty which was intended to build trust between former cold war adversaries
Monitoring: Russia uses Tu-154 jets fitted with surveillance equipment for the flights. Among places they have flown over in recent years are Minuteman nuclear missile bunkers, Area 51, the Capitol and Donald Trump’s New Jersey golf club
The administration says it wants out of the Open Skies Treaty because Russia is violating the pact, and imagery collected during the flights can be obtained quickly at less cost from U.S. or commercial satellites.
Exiting the treaty, however, is expected to strain relations with Moscow and upset European allies and some members of Congress.
President Dwight Eisenhower first proposed that the United States and the former Soviet Union allow aerial reconnaissance flights over each other´s territory in July 1955.
At first, Moscow rejected the idea, but President George H.W. Bush revived it in May 1989, and the treaty entered into force in January 2002. Currently, 34 nations have signed it; Kyrgyzstan has signed but not ratified it yet.
The Russian flights over U.S. sites have included a flyover of the Capitol and a trip to the Bedminster, New Jersey golf course where Trump was staying at the time.
An unarmed Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-154M conducted several sweeps of the nation’s capital in August 2017 before heading northeast to Bedmoinster.
The plane was at around 3,700 feet as it passed over downtown D.C. It also passed by Joint Base Andrews, home to Air Force One and the Marine One fleet.
The flight path also took it into southern Pennsylvania near the Civil War battlefield at Chambersburg, as well as a corner of West Virginia.
It also flew near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Next on the itinerary was a flight to New Jersey, where Trump is staying at his Bedminster golf course – on a day he fired off tweets touting the U.S. nuclear arsenal and military capabilities amid a stand-off with North Korea.
‘As per the treaty, we cannot confirm any locations until after the mission is over. A typical mission has several segments (flights) taking place over a few days; once this mission is over we can confirm the specific locations per your initial request,’ said a Pentagon spokesman asked about the flights.
Last year the flights passed over top-secret Minuteman nuclear missile sites in Montana and Area 51.
The U.S. has its own dedicated Open Skies plane, a specially modified version of the C-135 Stratolifter transport aircraft.
The OC-135B was adapted from a group of planes which were designed with sensors to pick up evidence of nuclear explosions.
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