House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel on Monday condemned reported plans within the Trump administration to withdraw from the 2002 Open Skies Treaty, saying the move would be a “blow” to U.S. national security interests.
“American withdrawal would only benefit Russia and be harmful to our allies’ and partners’ national security interests … Withdrawal risks dividing the transatlantic alliance and would further undermine America’s reliability as a stable and predictable partner when it comes to European security,” said Mr. Engel, New York Democrat.
The Open Skies Treaty allows each member of the 34-nation group the authority to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over other member states on short notice. The fly-overs are specifically intended to collect data on military forces and activities, according to the Arms Control Association.
Although the administration has not announced any formal action that would change the U.S. role in the agreement, Mr. Engel said the White House has cited “implementation concerns” on behalf of Russia and has placed restrictions on Russian flights over the U.S.
He said, however, that the concerns “do not rise to the level of material breach of the treaty.”
In a letter to White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Mr. Engel requested his “personal engagement” to preserve the U.S. position within the treaty, which Mr. Engel said “continues to serve American national security interests and is particularly important as a check against further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Mr. Engel called on the administration to engage in a “transparent process,” including an interagency review, and to inform Congress of any potential policy changes.