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Menendez, Engel, Reed, Smith Statement on Open Skies Treaty

WASHINGTON— Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following joint statement in response to reports that the Trump Administration intends to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty.

“We are deeply troubled by the Trump Administration’s sustained push to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and we reject the Administration’s arguments for pursuing withdrawal. The Administration’s effort to make a major change to our national security policy in the midst of a global health crisis is not only shortsighted, but also unconscionable. This effort appears intended to limit appropriate Congressional consultation on, and scrutiny of, the decision.

“This decision would have far-reaching, negative repercussions for our European allies, who rely on this Treaty to keep Russia accountable for its military actions in the region. During a time when we need to push back against Russian aggression, we cannot continue to undermine our alliances—which is exactly what U.S. withdrawal from this Treaty would do.

“It is also puzzling that the Secretary of Defense claims that $125 million to replace the aging aircraft used for treaty verification, which was already authorized and appropriated by Congress in FY19, is too costly. The total cost of replacing the aircraft is a tiny portion of the overall defense budget, representing less than one half of one percent of the topline. The benefit from this investment is immeasurable to our allies and provides the United States an unparalleled tool to hold Russia accountable for its actions.

“We urge the Administration to reverse course on this reckless policy decision rather than ramming it through while our country and the entire world grapples with an unprecedented crisis.”