Democrats say US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty may be illegal

File photo. A US high-altitude manned surveillance plane, the U-2, is ready to make a sortie form an airbase in the Seoul metropolitan area, South Korea, 22 August 2015. [Stringer/EPA/EFE]

Senior US Senate Democrats on Monday (22 June) accused President Donald Trump’s administration of violating the law when it declared his intention last month to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, the Democrats said the administration had not given the legally required 120 days’ advance notice to Congress before beginning the withdrawal process.

The United States announced on 22 May that it would withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies treaty allowing unarmed surveillance flights over member countries. It was the Trump administration’s latest move to pull the country out of a major global treaty.

US withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty takes European allies by surprise

Washington announced on Thursday (21 May) it would withdraw from the 35-nation Open Skies Treaty, allowing unarmed surveillance flights over signatory states, the Trump administration’s latest move to pull the country out of yet another major global landmark accord.

The administration said Russia had repeatedly violated the pact’s terms.

The letter from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Mark Warner and Jack Reed, the top Democrats on the Intelligence and Armed Services committees, called on the administration to immediately discontinue efforts to withdraw.

It also suggested that Trump’s decision may have been politically motivated because it took place less than five months before he is up for re-election in November.

“Beginning the US withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, without complying with US domestic law or constitutional practice, is an obvious political maneuver in an attempt to bind a future administration,” the letter said.

Officials from the White House, Department of Defense and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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