The Trump administration will withdraw from an international arms control treaty that allows nations to conduct unarmed, surveillance flights over each other’s territories, a senior administration official confirmed to The Post.
US officials, speaking to a small group of reporters Thursday on condition of anonymity, said that the White House had informed Russia on Thursday of its intention to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, arguing that the Soviet nation had repeatedly violated the decades-old pact.
The decision came after a six month review that found multiple instances of Russia refusing to comply with the agreement.
“During the course of this review it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in America’s interests to remain a party to the Open Skies Treaty,” one official said, alleging that Russia violates and implements the treaty in ways that can increase military threats against the US and its allies.
Multiple of the officials added that Russia had forbidden flights over Moscow and Chechnya, as well as near Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Soviet country also placed restrictions on conducting observations in Kaliningrad, home to Russia’s Baltic fleet where major military exercises are conducted.
Administration officials also argued that the imagery collected during these treaty-approved flights could be obtained quickly and at less cost from other US or commercial satellites.
Classified documents reviewed by the New York Times show that the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies accused the Russians of using flights over the US to map out critical infrastructure that could be hit by cyberattacks.
The move is expected to anger Moscow and the US’ European allies, which worry that Russia will undoubtedly respond by cutting off all flights used to monitor their military activities.
The deal, which expires weeks after the next presidential inauguration, has been a sticking point for President Trump, according to The Times.
The paper reports that for over a year, the commander in chief said he would not renew the deal unless China also joined the agreement.
Beijing has thus far rejected the proposal.
The treaty was initially proposed by former President Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, but was not revived until 1989, when former President George H.W. Bush negotiated the deal after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The deal was signed in 1992 and entered into force in January 2002.