Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been a member of a 34-nation treaty that allows the countries involved to conduct short notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories, primarily to collect military information that would otherwise prove difficult and dangerous to obtain.
As of Sunday, however, the United States has ended its involvement in what’s called the Treaty on Open Skies, The Hill reports. America’s official withdrawal from the treaty comes six months after President Donald Trump’s administration first announced its intentions to back out of the agreement.
Trump ends it
State Department spokesperson Cale Brown announced the United States’ official departure from the treaty on Sunday, noting that the U.S. began the formal withdrawal on May 22, 2020, per the rules of making such an exit.
“On May 22, 2020, the United States exercised its right pursuant to paragraph 2 of Article XV of the Treaty on Open Skies by providing notice to the Treaty Depositaries and to all States Parties of its decision to withdraw from the Treaty, effective six months from the notification date,” Brown said, according to The Hill.
“Six months having elapsed, the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies,” he added.
The Trump administration made the decision to withdraw from the treaty primarily over concerns that Russia has continually violated it, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying in the original announcement that “Russia has flagrantly and continuously violated the treaty in various ways for years,” as The Hill noted.
According to Fox News, the Trump administration pointed to specific instances in which Russia banned flights over locations like Kaliningrad — an area suspected of housing the country’s nuclear capabilities.
Unsurprisingly, the formal exit from the treaty immediately angered Democrats, with many accusing the president of making such a move just to complicate things for the incoming administration.
Earlier this year, a group of Democratic senators wrote a letter to Pompeo and then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in which they demanded the Trump administration to cancel their planned exit from the Open Skies treaty.
“[W]e demand that you immediately discontinue your efforts to initiate the withdrawal process until Congress is provided with the requisite notification under the [National Defense Authorization Act], and the Senate has had an opportunity to weigh in on the withdrawal,” the letter read, according to The Hill.
Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ) was especially angered at the withdrawal news, going as far as accusing the Trump administration of violating federal law in the process. “President Trump brazenly ignored the law and is unilaterally imposing a politically-charged withdrawal, even after losing a presidential election,” the New Jersey lawmaker said Sunday, as The Hill reported.
But as much as Dems may be whining about this one, it’s just one of many instances in which President Trump has shown that he puts America first. And that’s a legacy he’ll be remembered for long after his days in the White House come to an end.