U.S. tells Russia it won't rejoin Open Skies treaty

U.S. tells Russia it won't rejoin Open Skies treaty

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 AP reported.

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.

Washington withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies in November 2020. Russia’s lower house unilaterally passed the law to denounce the Treaty on Open Skies on May 19. The upper house is expected to hear the bill on June 2.

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