October 8, 2019
In What Expert Calls 'Gift To Putin,' Donald Trump May Ditch Treaty Letting U.S. Keep Tabs On Russian Military

The "Open Skies" treaty between the United States and Russia, which has been credited with helping keep the peace between the two countries — as well as between Russia and the United States' European allies — may be coming to an end. According to a letter from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel sent Monday to Donald Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, Trump is now moving to pull the U.S. out of the treaty.

As The Inquisitr has reported, the 27-year-old treaty allows for the United States to operate surveillance flights over Russia to monitor the country's military activities — with the full cooperation of its armed forces. The treaty also works the other way, allowing Russian jets to make supervised surveillance flights over the United States.

If Engel's letter is correct and Trump indeed intends to end the Open Skies treaty, the move would be "another Trump gift to Putin," according to nuclear proliferation expert Jon B. Wolfsthal, writing on his Twitter account.

"Russia hates Open Skies because it requires them to let Ukraine fly over their country," he tweeted.

Ukraine is also a signatory to the Open Skies treaty, along with 31 other countries in addition to the United States and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks.
Getty Images | Kim Kyung-Hoon

In his letter, Engel also warned that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty "would only benefit Russia and would be harmful to our allies and partners' national security interests."

Furthermore, Engel acknowledged in the letter that there have been "treaty implementation concerns regarding Russia" and that the country "continues to operate in unexpected ways." He says that these concerns, however, are not actually breaches of the treaty, even though the Trump administration is using the concerns as an "excuse that is being peddled as the potential reason for withdrawal."

While Engel does not specify the nature of those 'implementation concerns," a 2017 report by the journal Foreign Affairs, offers details of the Russian activities that may be what Engel meant by his reference to "concerns."

The treaty outlines the types of surveillance activities allowed in the flyovers, during which an American military representative accompanies the Russian pilots on the flights — with the reverse happening during U.S. flights over Russia. According to Foreign Affairs, communication between the aircraft and personnel on the ground is among the generally prohibited activities.

However, the Foreign Affairs report claims that this appears to be exactly what the Russians have been doing.

"Suspected Russian operatives were appearing in places that had recently been, or were later, part of Russian flyovers," the report said. "Not only were suspected spies visiting the same places that Russian surveillance planes were flying over... they were also appearing directly beneath these planes, in real time."