On Friday, Russia reacted to the Biden administration’s decision not to rejoin the Open Skies Treaty, an arms control agreement that allows unarmed surveillance flights over participating countries. The US told Russia on Thursday that it would not rejoin the treaty.
The Trump administration withdrew from Open Skies last year. Since then, Russia and the treaty’s European signatories have been trying to salvage the agreement. The Russian foreign ministry said Biden’s decision not to rejoin shows the US doesn’t really care about its allies’ interests or security.
“Washington’s action has once again demonstrated disregard not only for European security but also for the interests of its own allies who asked it to revise the decision taken by the Donald Trump administration,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s Tass News Agency. “We are convinced that the United States has made yet another gross political mistake.”
Russia started domestic procedures to formally withdraw from Open Skies in January. The withdrawal was passed by Russia’s lower parliament and is set to be voted on in the upper parliament in June. When approved by the upper parliament, it would need a signature from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While on the campaign trail, President Biden slammed Trump’s decision to leave the treaty. In May 2020, Biden released a statement that said a US withdrawal from Open Skies would “exacerbate growing tensions between the West and Russia, and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict.”
After Biden and Putin agreed to extend New START, the last nuclear arms control treaty between the two powers, Russia signaled that it was ready to discuss a revival of Open Skies. But instead of pursuing more arms control, Biden decided to escalate tensions through sanctions, the expulsion of Russian diplomats, and support for Ukraine.
Biden and Putin are set to hold their first face-to-face meeting of the Biden administration on June 16th in Geneva.