Democrats alarmed about possible U.S. withdrawal from Open Skies treaty

The signatories include most of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation states, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and several others.

A top USA congressional Democratic lawmaker says President Donald Trump's administration is looking at withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, the latest in a series of major arms-control and disarmament accords that are on the verge of collapse.

"The open skies treaty is a critical element of United States and European security, and a decision to wthdraw would be another blow to regional stability as well as Ukrainian security", wrote Senators Robert Menendez and Jack Reed, respectively the top Democrats on the Senate foreign relations and armed services panels, and Congressmen Eliot Engel and Adam Smith, chairs of the House foreign affairs and armed services panels, respectively. According to the State Department, the treaty "is created to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them".

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities in the post-Cold War period.

The White House and Pentagon have not responded to CNN's requests for comment on the matter.

Some U.S. lawmakers and military officials have in the past voiced allegations that Russian Federation was conducting overflights of U.S. territory using advanced camera technology that were more intrusive than past flights.

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Consultations with Congress and allies are essential before any attempt to pull out of the treaty or alter the terms of it, said Engel, a Democrat from NY.

Some experts and administration officials believe the treaty has outlived its usefulness, partly because of alleged violations by Moscow.

USA officials have also said Russian Federation had blocked US flights near Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea exclave where Russian Federation has a major naval facility, as well as sophisticated missile and antiaircraft systems.

While Democrats and President Donald Trump's critics are skeptical of talk of pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty with Russian Federation, former CIA Director James Woolsey called the pact outdated, telling Newsmax TV Tuesday that satellite technology can watch Russian Federation well enough.

The former official also said countries now have access to high-quality commercial satellite photographs. "A lot of this you can get from commercial satellites too".

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