U.S. Tells Russia It Will Not Rejoin Open Skies Treaty

May 27, 2021 20:25 GMT – By RFE/RL

The United States has informed Russia it will not rejoin the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed unarmed surveillance flights over military sites of member countries.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told her Russian counterpart of the official decision on May 27.

“The United States regrets that the Treaty on Open Skies has been undermined by Russia’s violations,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed it had been informed of the U.S. decision.

The Trump administration withdrew from the arms-control and verification agreement in November, saying Moscow violated it.

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The Biden administration had been reviewing possibly rejoining the treaty, but the notification to Russia on May 27 suggests the agreement is now officially over.

“In concluding its review of the treaty, the United States therefore does not intend to seek to rejoin it, given Russia’s failure to take any actions to return to compliance. Further, Russia’s behavior, including its recent actions with respect to Ukraine, is not that of a partner committed to confidence-building,” the State Department said.

In response to the Trump administration’s announcement last year, Russia said it plans to leave the agreement and earlier in May lawmakers voted to abandon the treaty.

The upper house of Russia’s parliament is expected to approve the withdrawal bill in June and once Russian President Vladimir Putin signs the measure, it would take six months for the Russian exit to take effect.

U.S. allies in Europe supported maintaining the treaty, which allows nations to collect information on one another’s military forces in order to increase transparency and build mutual confidence about intentions.

In order to stay in the agreement, Russia had unsuccessfully sought assurances that NATO members would not hand over data collected during observation flights over Russia to the United States.


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