The Trump administration is finally moving to pull the trigger on voiding the three-decade long Open Skies Treaty with Russia, after over much of the past year blasting Moscow's 'non-compliance' and threatening pullout along with other mutual defense treaties like New START.
"President Trump has decided to withdraw from another major arms control accord, according to senior administration officials, and will inform Russia on Friday that the United States is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty," reports The New York Times.
The post Cold War treaty, initiated in 1992 and then ratified in 2002, allows its now 35 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.
Senior administration officials 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.”
The Pentagon has in recent years complained that Russia curtails ability to fly over key Russian cities where it's believed nuclear defense capabilities related to Europe are readied.
In NYT's Thursday reporting another rationale has been put forth based on intelligence soures, namely—
"...in classified reports, the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies have contended the Russians are also using flights over the United States to map out critical American infrastructure that could be hit by cyberattacks."
Meanwhile, European allies are actually more fearful this signals the White House is seriously mulling a near-future exit from New START, the last major defense pact between Washington and Moscow which seeks to limit and greatly reduce nuclear arms proliferation.