Trump administration looks to reinterpret Cold War-era arms treaty to sell more US drones: report

Trump administration looks to reinterpret Cold War-era arms treaty to sell more US drones: report
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The Trump administration plans to reinterpret a 33-year-old arms treaty to allow U.S. defense companies to sell more drones, Reuters reported.

The change to the Reagan-era Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) — a treaty between 34 countries signed in 1987 to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons — could open up sales of larger, armed U.S. drones to governments including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates that have been barred from buying such weapons, a U.S. official, a former U.S. official and a defense company executive told Reuters.

Currently, only England, France and Australia are allowed to buy larger, armed drones from U.S. manufacturers.

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The shift could also overturn compliance with the MTCR from countries including Russia, marking yet another arms deal that has been put on shaky ground between Washington and Moscow.

President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE late last month announced that he is withdrawing from a major arms control pact between the two nations, the Open Skies Treaty, which follows his withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

And his administration has yet to agree with Russia to renew the New START treaty which is set to expire in February.

Should Washington break with the MTCR status quo, U.S. defense companies could offer their products in markets currently claimed by Chinese and Israeli contractors, whose governments do not participate in the MTCR.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Heidi Grant, the Pentagon’s director of Defense Technology Security Administration, only told Reuters that the Defense Department would like to see drone sales increase through more markets as those sales would help the militaries of allies.

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The State Department, which finalizes U.S. military sales, referred questions to the White House.

A senior administration official told The Hill that the White House would not comment on internal deliberations.

"The final decision to approve, or not approve, a [drone] sale is whole-of-government and takes into account U.S. national security, nonproliferation, and foreign policy objectives, as well as the recipient country’s capability and willingness to effectively and responsibly use and safeguard U.S.-origin technology in accordance with U.S. policies," the official said.

U.S. officials and industry executives told Reuters that the departments of Commerce, Energy, Justice and Homeland Security already agreed to the change in May, with the State Department expected to approve new drone sales under the latest interpretation as soon as this summer — notifying top drone manufacturers Northrop Grumman and General Atomics of the plans.

Updated: 3:47 p.m.