U.S. tells Russia it won't rejoin Open Skies arms control pact

Officials said the review was complete and that Sherman had informed Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of the US decision not to revert to the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The officers were not empowered to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The State Department later announced the move.

“The United States regrets that Russia’s violations have undermined the Open Skies Treaty,” the ministry said. “Therefore, with the conclusion of the treaty review, the United States has no intention of attempting re-accession as Russia has not taken any action to return to compliance. Furthermore, Russia’s behavior, including its recent actions in relation to Ukraine, is not that of a confidence-building partner. “

The announcement comes ahead of a meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland. They will seek common ground amid a severe deterioration in relationships that plunged relationships to their lowest point in decades. Still, Biden, who had supported the treaty as a senator, was extremely critical of Trump’s withdrawal.

“With the announcement of the intention to withdraw from the Open Skies contract, President Trump has doubled his short-sighted policy of being alone and giving up the American leadership,” said then-candidate Biden in May 2020.

The Open Skies Treaty was designed to build trust between Russia and the West by allowing more than three dozen signatories to the agreement to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to gather information about armed forces and activities. Since it came into force in 2002, more than 1,500 flights have been carried out under the treaty to promote transparency and enable arms control and other arrangements to be monitored.

The Trump administration announced the US withdrawal from the treaty last year, and the lower house of the Russian parliament last week voted to follow suit. But by Thursday both sides had said that the contract could still be saved. Russian officials said they were ready to reconsider their withdrawal if the US did the same.

The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, was due to approve the withdrawal law on June 2nd. Once Putin signed the measure, it would take six months for Russia’s exit to take effect.

Thursday’s announcement, however, appears to mark the end of the treaty, widely supported by US allies in Europe and Democrats in Congress as a confidence-building measure between former Cold War opponents.

When Trump stepped out of the pact, he argued that Russian violations made it untenable for Washington to remain a party to the deal. Washington finalized its resignation from the treaty in November, but the Biden administration said it was not against rejoining it.

Officials stressed the Biden government’s willingness to work with Russia on issues of mutual interest and noted the New START extension signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads deployed and 700 missiles and bombers deployed, and provides for extensive on-site inspections to verify compliance.

However, officials said that despite urging Russia to comply with the Open Skies Treaty, there was no practical way for the US to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw. One official said that since Biden took office, Russia has “made no progress” in taking steps to return to compliance.

Officials said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other senior American officials warned their Russian counterparts last week that a decision on open skies was imminent. Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Iceland last week, and Sullivan spoke to Putin’s national security adviser Nikolay Patrushev on Monday.

Moscow had regretted the US withdrawal and warned that it would undermine global security by making it difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations, especially given mounting tensions between Russia and the West over myriad issues like Ukraine , Cyber ​​grievances and the treatment of Russia’s opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his supporters.

Leading Congress Democrats and members of the European Union had urged the US to reconsider their exit and urged Russia to stay in the pact and lift flight restrictions, particularly in the westernmost region of Kaliningrad, which lies between NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.

Russia had insisted that past restrictions on observation flights were allowable under the treaty and noted that the US was placing broader restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.

As a prerequisite for remaining in the pact after the US withdrawal, Moscow had unsuccessfully pressed for guarantees from NATO allies that they would not pass on the data collected during their observation flights over Russia to the US.

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