On Friday, Russia announced it will be withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty following the US exit from the agreement. The treaty allows unarmed surveillance flights over participating countries.
The Trump administration announced it was withdrawing from Open Skies back in May 2020, and formally left the treaty in November 2020. Both the US and Russia have accused each other of violating the treaty by restricting surveillance flights in certain areas.
Since the US exit, Russia and its European signatories have remained a party to Open Skies. Moscow has asked the European participants to guarantee that they would not share data and intelligence gathered by flying over Russia with the US. But Russia says they have not been given any assurances from the European countries and chose to withdraw.
“Given the lack of progress in efforts to remove obstacles preventing the future functioning of the treaty in a new situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry is entitled to announce the start of domestic procedures to pave the way for Russia’s withdrawal from the Treaty on Open Skies,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s Tass News.
Open Skies was the second major treaty between the US and Russia that the Trump administration pulled out of, after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that prohibited the production of medium-range nuclear and ballistic missiles.
The New START is the last nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia and is set to expire on February 5th. The Trump administration sabotaged negotiations to extend the treaty by making unreasonable demands of Moscow.
Moscow is still offering to renew New START for five years with no preconditions. Joe Biden has said he favors the extension but must work quickly to get it done, or there will no longer be any constraints on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.