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Trump administration exits Open Skies treaty

By PAULINA FIROZI | The Washington Post | Published: November 22, 2020

The United States has formally withdrawn from the Treaty on Open Skies, a decades-old pact meant to reduce the chances of an accidental war by allowing mutual reconnaissance flights by parties to the 34-nation agreement.

The exit comes six months after President Trump first announced his intention to withdraw, saying Russia has been violating the pact.

"Today marks six months since the United States submitted our notice of withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies," White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement. "We are now no longer a party to this treaty that Russia flagrantly violated for years."

O'Brien said Trump has "never ceased to put America first by withdrawing us from outdated treaties and agreements that have benefited our adversaries at the expense of our national security."

Russia has denied violating the treaty and earlier this year chided the move as merely the latest abandonment by the Trump administration of major arms-control agreements.

The move risks sowing further divisions between the United States and European allies, some of which called on the administration to stay in the pact despite concerns about Russia.

In a statement in May, Joe Biden said that in announcing the intention to withdraw, Trump "doubled down on his shortsighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership."

"I supported the Open Skies Treaty as a Senator, because I understood that the United States and our allies would benefit from being able to observe - on short notice — what Russia and other countries in Europe were doing with their military forces," his May statement added.

The Washington Post's John Hudson and Paul Sonne contributed to this report.