Two US lawmakers have introduced a law compelling President Donald Trump to seek Congress’ approval before ditching international treaties, such as the Open Skies Treaty, arguing the move is a blow to national security.
“The decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty is completely counter to our national security interests and demonstrates continued disregard for our alliances and arms control accords,” Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-California) said in a joint statement with the legislation’s co-sponsor, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts).
Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lambasted Trump’s move, calling it “reckless” and arguing that it would leave “a lasting impact” on the nation’s ability to keep tabs on the Russian military, which “could threaten the interests of the United States and our allies.”
The proposed legislation – the Preventing Actions Undermining Security without Endorsement (PAUSE) Act – would make it impossible for a US president to sidestep Congress when deciding on either to withdraw or terminate US involvement in any major international accord, including the Open Skies Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia (New START).
The PAUSE Act creates a statutory role for Congress to affirmatively approve the withdrawal or termination of any Treaty to which the Senate has provided its advice and consent.
Trump announced on Thursday that the US would formally initiate the process to disentangle itself from the Open Skies Treaty (OST) on Friday. The departure will be finalized in six months, unless the US makes an about-face, which, according to Trump, is conditional on Moscow’s response.
Announcing the US exit from the accord, Trump accused Russia of violating the treaty, which has been in force since 2002 – an allegation the Kremlin has emphatically rejected. Firing back, Moscow blamed Washington for repeatedly disregarding its obligations under the agreement, which remains one of the last remaining cornerstones of the global arms control framework.
The treaty, which allows for reconnaissance flights over the territories of its signatories, is essential to European security, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. Despite the hostile rhetoric from Washington, Russia said it is intent on saving the treaty through negotiations with the US and other interested parties, provided that Moscow’s own concerns over Washington and its allies’ failure to hold up their end of the bargain will be addressed as well.
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