Russian Abuse Leads to US Exit

Russian Abuse Leads to US Exit

( – The US is planning to pull out of an international treaty that allows signatories to fly surveillance flights over each other’s territory. Liberals are already criticizing the proposal, but the administration says it’s been pushed into taking action by Russian violations of the treaty. The Open Skies agreement is supposed to reduce international tensions, but the Kremlin seems to be using it as an espionage tool.


The Treaty on Open Skies came into force on January 1, 2002, with the US as a founding member. Originally a Cold War project proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955, it became a symbol of the new peaceful world order and now has 35 signatories.

  • Under the treaty, any member state can fly unarmed surveillance aircraft anywhere within the territory of any other member state. Aircraft have to be specially certified for the mission. The US has a fleet of three specially modified OC-135B Open Skies aircraft.
  • A key feature of the treaty is that access must be unrestricted. If a member state is holding a military exercise and other members want to overfly it, they can. In fact, this was the main purpose – to let all parties verify that exercises are really just training, and not part of mobilization for war.
  • Now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Russia has started breaking the rules. According to him, joint US and Canadian flights have been turned back from areas where Russia was holding exercises, as well as nuclear weapons bases.
  • If Russia won’t allow US planes the access they’re supposed to have, it makes sense for the US to drop out. Then Russian aircraft lose the right to overfly our exercises and strategic weapons.
  • On top of this, US intelligence agencies say there’s another threat. Some Russian overflights apparently haven’t been looking at military targets at all. Instead, they’ve been looking at our critical national infrastructure and collecting information that could be useful for planning a terrorist or cyber-attack. Secretary Pompeo says there’s also evidence Russia has been doing this in Europe.

Now, Pompeo says President Trump wants to pull out of the treaty six months from now. The US withdrawal can be reversed if Russia starts obeying the rules again, but this administration isn’t going to let a supposedly peaceful treaty be weaponized against us.

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