Open Skies – With Trump, Every Day is Putin’s Birthday
Trump has shown little ability as a deal-maker since he became president. He has, however, proven to be very skilled at deal-breaking. Tearing up international treaties and agreements that enhance the national security and general well being of the United States has become his specialty. The latest victim is the EU–US Open Skies Agreement. This is a treaty between the United States and 34 of our European allies that many American may not be very familiar with.
The EU–US Open Skies Agreement is an agreement allowing any airline of the European Union or the United States to fly between any point in the European Union and any point in the United States. In practice, US airlines can fly between two points in the EU as long as that flight is the continuation of a flight that started in the US. Airlines of the European Union are also allowed to fly between the United States and other non-EU European countries. The treaty favors US airlines because they can operate intra-EU flights, but European airlines are not permitted to operate intra-US flights.
The Open Skies Agreement is also a landmark multilateral treaty among 34 nations that provides for the signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territory of other member states. This allows American surveillance aircraft to keep track of Russia’s military in areas like eastern Ukraine or Georgia. An American withdrawal from Open Skies would hinder the United States’ ability to operate surveillance flights, make it easier for Putin to operate in eastern Ukraine, and drive another wedge between the US and it’s NATO partners.
Some major US airlines are unhappy with the agreement. Although this is a US-EU agreement, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines are unhappy that it has allowed Qatar Airways to expand in the US. The dispute is over Air Italy’s new routes from Milan to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The major airlines claim Air Italy is a proxy for Qatar Airways, which owns a 49 percent stake in Air Italy. This minor disagreement, however, is far outweighed by the advantages Open Skies offers to US airlines, and the national security implications of withdrawing from the treaty.
As yet the Trump administration have given no explanation for withdrawing from this treaty. The one they are most likely to give to the public is that it is part of America First. This doctrine has been used to explain away numerous decisions that have been detrimental to the national security of the United States. Agreements like the Iranian Nuclear Accord, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Arms Trade Treaty.
As we all know by now, Trump’s foreign policy decisions are rarely guided by what is in the best interests of the United States. Trump’s erratic and secretive foreign policy is normally guided by self interest and the interest of his international benefactors. The real explanation may never be unearthed, but it is most likely a down payment for Putin’s interference in the 2020 election, or repayment to the Saudis, in their conflict with Qatar, for whatever secretive deals they made with Kushner.