National Security

Trump to Withdraw From Another Arms Control Treaty

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

The Open Skies Treaty, which officially came into effect during the second Bush Administration, is a treaty that allows all of our other treaties to work. It allows nations to conduct surveillance flights over each other's territory to monitor and verify arms control pacts and other military activity.

But Trump has withdrawn from several other key treaties, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), so I guess we don't need "open skies" anymore, right?

Officially, the Trump regime is saying we're withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty because it costs too much, but that doesn't pass the laugh test.

The administration says it wants out of the Open Skies Treaty because Russia is violating the pact, and imagery collected during the flights can be obtained quickly at less cost from U.S. or commercial satellites. Exiting the treaty, however, is expected to strain relations with Moscow and upset European allies and some members of Congress. [...]

Earlier this month, 16 former senior European military and defense officials signed a statement supporting the treaty, saying that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a blow to global security and further undermine the international arms control agreements.

The officials asked the U.S. to reconsider its exit. But if the U.S. leaves, they called for European states to stay in the treaty, fulfill obligations under the treaty and refrain from restricting the length of observation flights or banning flights over certain territories.

And how much would it cost to remain in the treaty?

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the cost of replacing the aircraft we use to verify the treaty is about $125 million or, you know, the cost of five toilets at the Pentagon.

I'm exaggerating, but barely. We're spending hundreds of billions on fighter aircraft that don't even work (the F-35) but we can't spend $125 million on a key treaty that prevents war?

I cannot figure any legitimate reason for Trump's decision to withdraw from this treaty so I'll employ Occam's Razor and accept the most simple explanation: some national security wackjob influenced by Moscow -- someone like Rudy Giuliani perhaps -- gave Trump the idea. Or maybe it was Putin himself. Who knows? The point is that Trump himself probably wasn't even aware of the treaty's existence until someone brought it up to him for their own reasons.

It may be true that Russia has been violating the treaty in any case by restricting access over certain regions, but they're not the ones withdrawing. Trump making the decision to withdraw makes America the bad guys. Our withdrawal is a license for other nations including Russia to impose more restrictions on our allies that remain in the treaty.