Trump bails on surveillance treaty used to monitor Russia, guts program of resources

Rachel Maddow describes how Donald Trump in his lame duck period has not only abruptly removed the U.S from the decades old Open Skies Treaty that supplies the U.S. and its allies with surveillance data on Russian military activities, but has taken steps to dispose of the program’s specialized planes and removed the option of replacing them.

There is some good news.

Trump left the Open Skies Treaty, but don’t write it off yet

President Donald Trump made good Saturday on his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Open Skies Treaty, but it looks like President-elect Joe Biden, who opposed that move, may have a path to revive the pact.

Because it could take months for the Air Force to move through the legal and bureaucratic processes necessary to decommission the Boeing OC-135B planes flown from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., to execute the treaty mission, it appears the Biden administration would have ample time to reverse course. The treaty permits 30-plus nations to conduct unarmed, observation flights over each other’s territory.

“The final decision on disposition of Open Skies Treaty resources has not yet been made,” an Air Force official told Defense News on Tuesday. “The 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt AFB is still flying local OC-135 missions at a greatly reduced rate in order to maintain aircrew qualifications, while the Air Force continues to assess options for realigning, repurposing, or retiring the two 1960s-era OC-135B aircraft, as well as other associated equipment in accordance with DoD guidance.”

Despite reports the Trump administration might be scrambling to get rid of the OC-135B planes, a congressional source said the Air Force plans to keep the planes until the end of fiscal 2021 and service leaders had yet to make a firm decision about what to do with them.