Biden Could Maintain Trump’s Policy That Boosted Drone Exports: Report | Drone Strikes News

The administration of President Joe Biden wants to keep a controversial policy from the time of his predecessor Donald Trump which revived sales of armed drones to countries with a human rights record under scrutiny in the United States and elsewhere, sources familiar with the discussion told Reuters news agency.

When the Trump administration reinterpreted the Cold War-era arms deal between 35 countries, known as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), to increase sales of drones, the Arms control advocates and some leading Democratic lawmakers feared it would worsen global conflicts.

While it is too early to tell if this is the case, sales have increased.

Maintaining this policy could also be at odds with Biden’s campaign pledge to “make sure America doesn’t check its values ​​at the door to sell guns.” When Biden was Vice President of President Barack Obama, human rights groups criticized their administration for drone attacks on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, which also killed civilians.

From 2018 to 2020, Washington renegotiated the 33-year-old MTCR to lift agreed limits on the proliferation of drone technology. But last year, Trump put aside an effort to rewrite the pact and decided to offer American drones to almost any country that wanted to buy them.

While stealth jets such as the $ 79 million F-35 grab the headlines, drones are much cheaper but can still perform high-risk missile attacks and surveillance missions without putting a pilot in jeopardy. . Many US-made air vehicles fly quickly and carry large payloads, making them highly sought after while strengthening a country’s ties with the US military.

The White House National Security Council (NSC) is considering how to keep the policy in place while the State Department calls on its allies and other countries that sell drones to adopt the U.S. position, said officials. sources close to the case. Biden also wants to resume talks to lift MTCR proliferation limits, the sources said.

While no decision has been communicated to the cabinet under-secretary level, people familiar with the internal administration discussions have said he tends to maintain Trump’s more expansive export policy.

“They are not going to go back,” said one of the people on the policy who hoped Trump would take market share from the drones made in China.

An NSC official said that “the US government will continue to invoke national discretion” and treat large drones as if they were outside the purview of the MTCR, which was drafted to control the proliferation of cruise missiles.

Keep the door open

Continuing the policy opens the door to hundreds of millions and possibly billions of dollars in U.S. sales to governments in Taiwan, India, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates which in the past were prohibited from purchasing them.

Human rights activists and arms control advocates are not the only voices skeptical of Trump’s policies.

Members of Congress are delaying the sale of four drones to Morocco, reported by Reuters in December, over objections to the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Western Sahara as Moroccan territory, people close to the country told Reuters. agreement.

NSC official said decision to continue Trump’s policy “gives US government flexibility to review UAS [unmanned aerial systems] export demands ”while continuing to exercise this“ national discretion in a manner consistent with our MTCR commitments ”, as well as“ our strong commitment to US national security, human rights, non-proliferation and other foreign policy objectives ”.

The MTCR classifies several of the most powerful U.S. drones among cruise missiles because they meet the technical specifications for unmanned aircraft in the pact.

Under Trump reinterpretation, the United States decided to treat large strike-capable drones that cannot travel more than 800 km per hour (500 mph) as if they belonged to a classification that did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Covenant.

This allowed for easier exportation of Global Hawks, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, which are unarmed and used for surveillance, as well as Reapers used for both surveillance and air raids and manufactured by General Atomics.

Longer term, Biden’s team wants to negotiate a brand new deal just for drone exports, according to a source familiar with the situation and the NSC official.

The NSC official said the Biden team “will work with other countries to set international standards for the sale, transfer and subsequent use of armed UAS.”

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