The Treaty on Open Skies allows participants to carry out aerial surveillance as part of a program of scheduled observation flights, with the aim of gathering information about military forces.
US Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel raised concerns in a letter on Monday that the White House may abandon an accord that includes more than 30 countries, stressing that the potential move could pose a threat to “American national security interests”.
In a letter to the National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Engel said that he was “deeply concerned by reports that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty and strongly urge you against such a reckless action”, stressing that the agreement has “provided important military transparency for its 34 signatory countries since it entered into force in 2002” and “American withdrawal would only benefit Russia and be harmful to our allies’ and partners’ national security interests”.
The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities in the post-Cold War period.
The treaty allows member states to openly gather information on respective armed forces and their military activities during scheduled observation flights. The signatories include most of the NATO states, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and several others.
As a rule, flights by Russia and NATO member states are conducted on a reciprocal basis.
In August 2018, US President Donald Trump enacted the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. According to the bill, the United States will not give any additional funds to implement the Open Skies Treaty.