18:20 GMT23 January 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - US Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says US withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty leaves the country unprotected against Russia.

    "As I have stated previously, the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty is reckless and leaves the United States and our allies less secure against Russia. For nearly twenty years, the Treaty, which the Senate approved unanimously, has provided the United States and our allies important insights into Russia’s military. The administration’s decision to abandon the Treaty fits into a broader pattern of discarding arms control and non-proliferation agreements, raising deep concerns among our allies about our commitment to their security," Menendez said in a Sunday statement, released by the committee.

    The senator stressed that now that the US is not part of the treaty, it will not be able to see any data gathered by Russia through Open Skies observation flights.

    "I strongly believe that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Treaty is a violation of domestic law. In the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress reaffirmed its support for the Open Skies Treaty and specifically mandated the administration justify a withdrawal four months before any formal notification of withdrawal took place," Menendez said.

    He called on the incoming US presidential administration to rejoin the treaty.

    The Treaty on Open Skies allows its participants to carry out aerial surveillance as part of a program of scheduled observation flights. More than 30 countries are participating in the program created to boost transparency of military activities.

    The US participation in the Treaty on Open Skies officially ended on Sunday, six months after Washington announced its intention to quit the agreement.

    US President Donald Trump confirmed the United States’ withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty on May 21, citing what he called violations made by Russia and its alleged lack of compliance. Moscow has denied all accusations.

    Many European countries have voiced regrets over the US move and expressed hope that Washington would reconsider.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this month that Moscow would ask its partners within the treaty to provide legal guarantees that they would not share flight data with the United States. The United Kingdom, Germany and France have since reiterated their commitment to the treaty.

    Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council's foreign affairs committee, told Sputnik on Sunday that the Open Skies Treaty was going to stay in force so long as NATO countries guarantee that they will not send data they obtain to third parties, particularly to the US.

    security, withdrawal, Bob Menendez, Treaty on Open Skies, U.S
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