On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill that formalizes Russia’s exit from the Open Skies Treaty, an arms control agreement that allows unarmed surveillance flights over participating countries.
The move comes after the Biden administration informed Moscow that it had no intention of rejoining the agreement. The Trump administration withdrew the US from Open Skies in November 2020, claiming Russian violations. Moscow has also accused the US of violating the treaty.
Russia tried to salvage the treaty and wanted commitments from its European participants that they would not share data gathered during overflights of Russia with the US. But Russia said it did not get enough guarantees from the Europeans and began domestic procedures to exit the treaty in January.
After President Biden and Putin agreed to renew New START, the last nuclear arms control treaty between the two powers, Russia signaled it was ready to discuss reviving Open Skies. But the Biden administration put the final nail in the coffin of the treaty when it informed Russia on May 27th that it would not rejoin.
As a candidate, President Biden slammed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from Open Skies. In May 2020, when Trump announced his decision to exit the agreement, 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.”
Biden has vowed to pursue more arms control with Russia, but besides extending New START, his administration has shown no interest in new agreements and seems keen on escalating tensions instead. Biden and Putin are meeting in Geneva on June 16th. Before the US informed Russia it would not rejoin the treaty, the Russians were hoping the two leaders could discuss a revival of Open Skies.