Trump is burning down everything he can on the way out
The sore loser impeached squatter in the Oval Office is never going to concede the election, but he will leave. And he’s going to douse everything with kerosene and light a match on his way out. That’s by doing things like putting a completely unqualified loyalist and conspiracy theory proponents on the transition team for a department as critical as Defense.
It also means further isolating the U.S. by withdrawing from critical arms control agreements. The U.S. officially withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty on Monday, a post-Soviet international agreement that allowed the participating countries—in particular the U.S. and Russia—to conduct surveillance flights over each other’s countries. Not only is Trump officially withdrawing us from the treaty, he’s getting rid of the U.S. Air Force planes that have been used for nearly 30 years to conduce the surveillance.
If Biden seeks to reenter the agreement, he won’t have the specially equipped planes with which to do it. A Trump administration official told The Wall Street Journal that the planes are being classified as “excess defense articles,” ready to ship off to other countries. “We’ve started liquidating the equipment,” the official said. “Other countries can come purchase or just take the airframes. They are really old and cost-prohibitive for us to maintain. We don’t have a use for them anymore.” Congress has already appropriated over $40 million of the estimated $250 million for replacement planes, although then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper decided in July to cancel the program to buy new planes. With funds already appropriated, it’s possible that purchase could go forward.
But it’s unclear how simple rejoining the treaty will be if the Biden administration choses to do so. Back in May, Biden reiterated that he “supported the Open Skies Treaty as a senator, because I understand that the United States and our allies would benefit from being able to observe—on short notice—what Russia and other countries in Europe were doing with their forces.” He has yet to indicate what he’ll do now or how much of a priority this will be after rejoining the Paris climate accord, an extension of the New Start nuclear treaty, reconstituting the Iran nuclear deal, and dealing with Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Just to name a few of the international agreements Trump has scrapped.
Whether Biden can legally unilaterally rejoin is under debate. The Trump administration says that the Senate would need to approve a bid to rejoin, and with a two-thirds vote. But since the Trump administration ignored legislation that required a 120-day period of notice to and consultation with Congress to withdraw, experts say the withdrawal is illegal. Jean Galbraith of the University of Pennsylvania law school says that Biden could unilaterally rejoin. “It is possible and advisable that the Biden administration declare that it will continue to participate in Open Skies,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.