US Tells Russia It Won’t Rejoin Open Skies Arms Control Pact

FILE In this file photo taken on Friday, April 26, 2019, A Russian Air Force Tu-214 flies over Offutt Air Force Base, Friday, April 26, 2019, in Omaha, Neb. The flight is allowed as part of the Open Skies Treaty. China, is lashing out at Washington over its withdrawal from the “Open Skies Treaty” with Russia, saying the move undermines military trust and transparency and imperils future attempts at arms control. The Russian parliament’s lower house has voted to withdraw from an international treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities following the U.S. departure from the pact. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration informed Russia on Thursday that it will not rejoin a key arms control pact, even as the two sides prepare for a summit next month between their leaders, the State Department said.

U.S. officials said Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told the Russians that the administration had decided not to reenter the Open Skies Treaty, which had allowed surveillance flights over military facilities in both countries before President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact. As a presidential candidate, Biden had criticized Trump’s withdrawal as “short-sighted.”

Thursday’s decision means only one major arms control treaty between the nuclear powers — the New START treaty — will remain in place. Trump had done nothing to extend New START, which would have expired earlier this year, but after taking office, the Biden administration moved quickly to extend it for five years and opened a review into Trump’s Open Skies Treaty withdrawal.

The officials said that the review had been completed and that Sherman had informed Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of the U.S. decision not to return to the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The State Department later announced the move.

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

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Source: Associated Press