Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The U.S. is moving to withdraw from Open Skies, a 1992 treaty that allows NATO countries and Russia to surveil one another from the air to prevent the risk of military conflict.

Why it matters: This is the third major international defense agreement President Trump has abandoned, following the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. The fate of another highly consequential treaty, New START, remains in the balance.

How it happened: "Trump administration officials and some conservative lawmakers have long argued that the Russians have used the Open Skies accord to gather intelligence on U.S. sites while restricting access for Western overflights of Russian territory," per WSJ.

What to watch: New START, the last treaty constraining the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, is due to expire in February.

  • Marshall Billingslea, Trump's arms control envoy, announced talks with Russia today aimed at bringing China into a new trilateral agreement.
  • But he expressed skepticism that Russia could be trusted to comply with any treaty, and he would not discuss the idea of extending New START before the Feb. 5 deadline without Chinese participation.
  • "We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it," Billingslea said in a discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute.

Go deeper: Trump could take the lid off the nuclear stockpiles

Go deeper

Aug 6, 2020 - World

How the world's nuclear stockpiles have shifted since Hiroshima

Data: Federation of American Scientists; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There are roughly 13,355 nuclear weapons in the world, with 91% of them belonging to Russia (6,370) or the U.S. (5,800), according to estimates from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

What to watch: China’s stockpile of around 290 warheads is “likely to grow further over the next decade” and put it firmly in the third spot among the world’s nuclear powers, according to analysts Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda.

Elliott Abrams to replace Brian Hook as Trump's Iran envoy

Brian Hook. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Image

President Trump's Iran envoy, Brian Hook, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Thursday. He will be replaced with Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams, a noted Iran hawk who will serve in both roles.

Why it matters: Hook had been tasked with executing Trump's "maximum pressure" policy toward Iran, working closely with Pompeo. That strategy has deepened tensions and thus far failed to force Iran back to the negotiating table, as Trump had hoped.

Trump refuses to answer question on whether he supports QAnon conspiracy theory

President Trump on Friday refused to answer a direct question on whether or not he supports the QAnon conspiracy theory during a press briefing.

Why it matters: Trump congratulated Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who vocally supports the conspiracy theory, on her victory in a House primary runoff earlier this week — illustrating how the once-fringe conspiracy theory has gained ground within his party.