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Biden administration won’t seek to rejoin Open Skies Treaty after 2020 exit


The Biden administration will not seek to reenter the Open Skies Treaty with Russia in response to that country’s “failure to take any actions to return to compliance,” a State Department spokesperson said Thursday.

The 1992 treaty allows member countries to conduct short notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the other countries to collect data on their military forces and activities.

The US formally withdrew from the treaty last year under the Trump administration, citing Russia’s violations. But the Biden administration’s decision to not seek reentry is especially notable as it takes one potential area of immediate collaboration off the table as President Joe Biden prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

The Associated Press first reported on the decision.

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

The decision comes just weeks before Biden will meet with Putin in Switzerland on June 16. Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that strategic stability would be one of the issues that Biden discusses with Putin.

“We expect they will spend a fair amount of time on strategic stability, where the arms control agenda goes following the extension of New START,” Psaki said at Tuesday’s briefing.

The Biden administration slapped sweeping sanctions on Russia last month over Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2020 election, the massive SolarWinds hack and the ongoing occupation of Crimea.

The sanctions announcement showed that the Biden administration is more willing to directly call out Russia’s meddling in US affairs after Trump administration officials had to dance around former President Donald Trump’s frequent unwillingness to criticize Moscow.

Still, the President decided not to sanction the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline — a step he defended earlier this week as necessary to protect US relationships with European allies.

“I have been opposed to Nord Stream 2 from the beginning,” Biden said Tuesday of the pipeline, which is expected to be finished this summer and is intended to provide Europe with a sustainable gas supply while giving Russia more direct access to the European market.

“But it was almost completed by the time I took office,” Biden added. “And to go ahead and impose sanctions now would I think be counterproductive in terms of our European relations and I hope we can work on how they handle it from this point on.”

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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