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Biden administration decides U.S. won't rejoin Open Skies treaty with Russia

By Don Johnson
President Joe Biden, then vice president, shakes hands with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 10, 2011. Putin and Biden are to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16. File Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE.
President Joe Biden, then vice president, shakes hands with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 10, 2011. Putin and Biden are to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16. File Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE.

May 28 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has decided it will not rejoin an arms control deal with Russia that allows unarmed flights over dozens of countries that participate in the deal.

The Department of State said the Open Skies Treaty has been "undermined by Russia's violations," an allegation that Russia has denied. In 2002, 30 nations began participating in the treaty.

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The State Department said Thursday that Russia's behavior, including its recent actions with Ukraine, showed it was not "a partner committed to confidence-building."

"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, the Department of State said on Thursday, according to BBC News.

The administration made the decision after announcing earlier this week that President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will hold a summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement that allowed surveillance flights over military bases in both countries. Russia is expected to withdraw from the pact sometime this year.

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The Defense Department said in a statement in May 2020 that Russia has "increasingly used the treaty to support propaganda narratives in an attempt to justify Russian aggression against its neighbors and may use it for military targeting against the United States and our allies."

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Moscow called the U.S. decision last year a deplorable development for European security which would undermine trust-building efforts.

The administration's decision means that the New Start treaty is the only major arms control agreement that remains in effect between both countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in February that the United States had signed a five-year extension of the New START arms control treaty with Russia. The New Start treaty limits deployments of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

The original START Treaty was in force from 1994 to 2009, with an improved treaty signed and in effect beginning in 2010.

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