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US tells Russia it will not rejoin the Open Skies arms control pact

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

“The United States regrets that the Open Skies Treaty has been undermined by Russia’s violations,” the ministry said. “The United States therefore does not intend to re-accede upon completion of its review of the treaty as Russia has taken no action to return to compliance. Moreover, Russia’s behavior, including its recent actions in relation to Ukraine, is not that of a trust-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 has plummeted to its lowest level in decades. However, Biden, who had supported the treaty as a senator, had strongly criticized Trump’s withdrawal.

“With the announcement of his intention to withdraw from the open skies treaty, President Trump has doubled his short-sighted policy of going it alone and renouncing 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 the agreement’s more than three dozen signatories to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to gather information about armed forces and activities. Since the agreement entered into force in 2002, more than 1,500 flights have been carried out to promote transparency and enable arms control and other agreements to be monitored.

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

The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, was expected to approve the Brexit law on June 2, and after Putin signed the measure, it would take six months for Russia’s withdrawal to take effect.

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

When he left the pact, Trump argued that it was untenable for Washington to stick to the agreement because of Russian violations. Washington completed its exit 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 highlighted the extension of New START, which was originally signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and provides for extensive on-site inspections to verify compliance.

However, officials said that despite appeals to Russia to abide by the Open Skies Treaty, there was no practical way for the US to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw. An official said that since Biden took office, Russia has made “absolutely no progress” in returning 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 advisor Nikolai 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 heightened tensions between Russia and the West over myriad issues, including Ukraine, Cyber ​​abuse and the treatment of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his supporters.

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

Russia had insisted that the treaty allow the restrictions on observation flights it had imposed in the past, pointing out that the US was imposing far-reaching restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.

As a condition for the pact after the US withdrawal, Moscow had unsuccessfully pushed 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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