The United States said on Thursday it would withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, the Trump administration’s latest move to pull the country out of a major global treaty.
The administration said Russia had repeatedly violated the pact’s terms. Senior officials said the pullout would formally take place in six months, but President Donald Trump held out the possibility that Russia could come into compliance.
“I think we have a very good relationship with Russia. But Russia didn’t adhere to the treaty. So until they adhere, we will pull out,” Trump told reporters.
His decision deepens doubts about whether Washington will seek to extend the 2010 New START accord, which imposes the last remaining limits on U.S. and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear arms to no more than 1,550 each. It expires in February.
Trump has repeatedly called for China to join the United States and Russia in talks on an arms control accord to replace New START. China, estimated to have about 300 nuclear weapons, has repeatedly rejected Trump’s proposal.
The U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty will affect the interests of all of its participants, who are also members of NATO, RIA state news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Thursday.
Russia has not violated the treaty, and nothing prevents the continuation of talks on technical issues that the U.S. says are the violations by the Russian side, Grushko said.
NATO allies and other countries like Ukraine had pressed Washington not to leave the Open Skies Treaty, whose unarmed overflights are aimed at bolstering confidence and providing members forewarning of surprise military attacks.