- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2019

The Democratic leaders of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees are demanding new answers from the White House on their reported decision to pull the U.S. out of a key international treaty that allows U.S. intelligence flights over Russia.

In a letter to National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, and House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, New York Democrat, are seeking clarity on President Trump’s position, following news reports that the decision has been made — but not made public — to pull the U.S. out of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty.

The chairmen wrote that they are “specifically disturbed by reports indicating that both the State Department and the Department of Defense have been ordered by the White House not to discuss the Open Skies Treaty with Congress.”

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“This stonewalling only serves to undermine collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of our government on matters of national security,” they continued.

The 34-country pact was designed to lower international tensions by allowing treaty members to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others’ territory to collect data on military forces and activities.

Treaty supporters argue America’s European allies could be unnerved by another U.S. repudiation of a major multilateral security pact. All but two of the European Union’s 29 member countries have joined the agreement and when the U.S. conducts intelligence flights, European allies are often brought along.

But conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, and private Russia hawks have pushed for the withdrawal, saying the Kremlin was not complying with the overflight provisions and was gaining a major intelligence advantage over the U.S. military.

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