Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday said Moscow would officially exit the mutual surveillance treaty Open Skies on December 18th. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill formalizing Russia’s withdrawal from Open Skies after the Biden administration informed Russia the US would not rejoin the treaty.
President Biden met with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday, and the two leaders agreed to eventually enter talks to pursue arms control. But by refusing to rejoin Open Skies, Biden squandered the chance to save the arms control agreement.
The Trump administration withdrew from Open Skies in 2020. Russia and its European signatories tried to salvage the treaty, but after failing to make any progress towards a US return to the deal, Russia moved to formalize its exit.
When Trump left the treaty in 2020, then-candidate Biden released a statement slamming the move. Biden said a US withdrawal from Open Skies would “exacerbate growing tensions between the West and Russia, and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict.”
The US withdrawal from Open Skies was part of a trend of tearing up arms control by the Trump administration. Under Trump, the US also left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and his administration seemed poised to let New START expire, the last nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia.
In one of his first foreign policy moves, Biden agreed with Putin to extend New START for an additional five years. After the Geneva summit, the US and Russia committed to eventually negotiating a replacement of New START.