Trump Admin destroys 20-year surveillance program for Russia

The Trump Timeline

Sources linked at end of page.


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The Trump Administration exits the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement between the U.S. and other countries, most notably Russia, that has existed for nearly 20 years.

The Open Skies Treaty allows countries to perform unarmed surveillance flights over other countries to monitor military activities, weapons, and troop movements from above. It also allows countries to share surveillance of each other’s neighboring enemies to prevent a conflict.

Trump’s decision doesn’t stop there, though. He also makes sure that the incoming Biden administration won’t be able to re-enter the treaty.

Before anyone assumes that President-elect Joe Biden will simply try to re-enter the international agreement, it’s worth emphasizing why that won’t be an option: the Trump administration, the WSJ article added, is “taking steps to dispose of the two specially equipped OC-135B planes the U.S. has used to carry out Open Skies flights.”

One official explained, “We’ve started liquidating the equipment.”


Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien claims the decision is a response to Russia’s long-term violations of the treaty. In May, when these plans were first announced, Mike Pompeo blamed Russia restricting Open Skies flights for the decision.

Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will, unlawfully denying or restricting Open Skies observation flights whenever it desires.

Mike Pompeo

If Russia doesn’t want the U.S. to perform these surveillance flights, why would we throw in the towel instead of trying to find out what Russia is hiding? Ending the program isn’t a punishment towards Russia; it’s giving them what they want and hurting our other allies.

“The treaty continued to enhance stability and reduce the risk of conflict in Europe and provide valuable information about Russian military forces,” Kingston Reif, a researcher at the Arms Control Association, told Quartz. “Our European allies and partners in particular benefited from the agreement, which is why they wanted us to remain a party to it and none of them supported that administration’s decision to withdraw.”


Note: Some sources claim the treaty has existed for nearly 30 years. Negotiations began in the early ’90s, but the operation didn’t begin until 2002.


Photo: Lucas Miguel (not a photo of Russia)

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