Trump bypasses arms control pact to sell more large armed drones

Trump has signed this week a measure to allow U.S. defense contractors to sell more armed drones to foreign militaries. With this measure, they can bypass a 33-year-old arms treaty, a State Department official told reporters Friday.

The Trump administration has chosen to sidestep one part of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). It is a 1987 agreement amongst 35 countries to prevent the propagation of nuclear weapons. Now U.S. firms can sell drones to foreign governments which were earlier blocked from buying them.

The new policy will help U.S. allies and partners meet “urgent national security and commercial requirements,” according to the State Department’s assistant secretary for political-military affairs, Clarke Cooper.

The White House, meanwhile, claimed that the pact is outmoded and gives “an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry.”

Under this new policy, drones flying at speeds less than 800 km/ hour are not to be subjected to the pact’s rules. This opens up the international sale of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper and Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Critics of the measure claim it can cause a deadly increase in ballistic missiles. It might even prompt other countries to weaken ties and choose rules to their benefit.