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Photo: Evan Vucci / AP
The U.S. has backed out of the Treaty of Open Skies. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Trump's last gift to Putin: The end of the Treaty of Open Skies

Amid the noise of changing administrations, the U.S. ended a treaty that potentially preserved world security.

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As the U.S. population and world was occupied by Thanksgiving and the next appointees to President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet, the Trump administration ended its involvement in a key treaty that potentially ensured world security. The Treaty of Open Skies was already on the way out after it was announced the U.S. would leave in May. The withdrawal was confirmed on Nov. 22.

The treaty, signed with 33 other countries in Helsinki in 1992, granted reciprocal rights to fly over foreign countries with unarmed planes to watch for movements or concentrations of armed forces. The European-minded measure was necessary after the Cold War to reach agreements between the U.S. and Russia. It had been in effect since 2002, and although misused at times, it was a utilitarian measure to build confidence rather than prevent escalation. 

The U.S. leaving the agreement stems from claims the Russians were violated the agreement by restricting flights near Kaliningrad — an area between Poland and Lithuania. 

According to CNN, the army intends to share intelligence and satellite data with European allies to compensate for the loss, especially because it remains intact for European Union countries. 

Two days after the U.S. announcement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov appeared to deny they had violated the treaty or failed to comply with any of its measures. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later said on the Rossiya 24 network that "we are ready to continue cooperating within the framework of this important document, provided that the remaining parties strictly comply with the requirements." However, in light of the U.S. decision to leave, it was only a matter of time before deputy minister Sergei Riabkov hinted that Russia too would abandon because the treaty "loses viability." 

Both Russia and the U.S. claim contradictory problems with the treaty, and either one of them is lying, if not both. But what is more clear, is that the loss of the treaty will mean the loss of international observers on two of the most militarized countries on the globe.

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