US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has slammed Russia’s longtime “non-compliance” to the Open Skies treaty, months after the Trump administration expressed a desire to nix it along with the recently defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
Esper told reporters at US Strategic Command on Thursday that the US has yet to finally determine whether it will stay the course with the treaty, but underscored that Washington “can’t continue” to tolerate Russian “noncompliance” with the treaty.
“So far, no formal final decision has been made. In due course we will be getting together to do that, to decide the best path forward for our nation,” Esper said.
“I take no view one way or the other with regard to arms control in general. They should be in our national interests if we’re going to enter an agreement or continue an agreement. The place where we begin is compliance with what’s happening on those agreements.” Esper continued.
The Trump administration notified NATO in late November that the US is mulling pulling out of the treaty unless Russian non-compliance issues are rectified.
The Americans and Russians have for years quarrelled over specifics, including what reconnaissance cameras and equipment should be allowed, but more importantly Russia’s restriction of US overflights near Kaliningrad and Georgia, as detailed in the following:
U.S. critics of the treaty have raised concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty, citing, in particular, Russia’s refusal to allow observation flights within 500 kilometers of Kaliningrad or within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The United States has reciprocated by restricting flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska.
The post Cold War treaty, ratified in 2002, allows its 34 member states to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation flights to monitor other countries’ military operations in mutual verification of arms-control agreements.
The treaty even allows Russian recon flights over tightly restricted Washington D.C. airspace — in past years Russian Tupolev Tu-154s have even flown at low altitude over such sensitive sites as Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, the US Capitol, the Pentagon, and CIA headquarters in Langley.
A senior administration official previously said of Open Skies, “This is a U.S. position—that we think this treaty is a danger to our national security. We get nothing out of it. Our allies get nothing out of it, and it is our intention to withdraw.”
Fri, 02/21/2020 – 18:25
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Author: Tyler Durden