Trump Exits Open Skies Treaty, Moves to Discard Observation Planes

The Trump administration formally shut the door on the Open Skies treaty Sunday, exiting the agreement while moving to get rid of the U.S. Air Force planes that have been used to carry out the nearly three-decade-old accord.

President Trump had served notice in May that the U.S. would withdraw in six months from the accord, which was intended to reduce the risk of war by allowing Russia and the West to carry out unarmed reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories. U.S. officials, however, have long complained that Moscow hasn’t fully complied with its terms.

In a move that could complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s options if he sought to re-enter the agreement, the Trump administration is taking steps to dispose of the two specially equipped OC-135B planes the U.S. has used to carry out Open Skies flights.

A senior U.S. official said the planes are being designated as “excess defense articles,” which means they can be given to foreign partners at reduced or no cost.

“We’ve started liquidating the equipment,” the official said. “Other countries can come purchase or just take the airframes. They are really old and cost-prohibitive for us to maintain. We don’t have a use for them anymore.”

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