US President Joe Biden, who is returning his country to several international agreements that his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from, insists on staying outside the “Open Skies” treaty for military monitoring, in order to show his firmness in confronting Russia after several steps that show openness.
This decision, contrary to the will of the new US president, in coordination with Moscow on issues related to international security, comes less than three weeks before his first summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva.
“The United States regrets undermining Russia’s violations of the Open Skies Treaty,” a State Department spokesman said Friday.
He added, “At the conclusion of its review of the treaty, the United States therefore does not intend to seek a return to it, because Russia has not taken any steps to return to compliance with it.”
After accusing Moscow of violating it, former President Donald Trump withdrew from the “Open Skies” treaty that entered into force in 2002 and initially had 35 signatories allowing flights to monitor each other’s military activities.
In response, Russia abandoned the treaty. Russian deputies voted on May 19 in favor of withdrawing from it, but the government confirmed that it was ready to reverse this step if the Americans proposed a “constructive solution.”
Upon the American withdrawal, Biden, who was still a Democratic candidate for the presidential elections at the time, criticized the Republican president’s decision, considering it “short-sighted”, after Trump was withdrawing the United States from international agreements and many organizations.
Biden acknowledged the existence of “real concerns” about Russia’s “violations” of the treaty, but considered, in a statement issued in May 2020, that the solution was not to turn the back on the text, “but rather to seek to resolve it through the dispute resolution mechanism.”
Biden noted that the “transparency that” the treaty brings “is particularly important to countries that do not have special satellite imagery capabilities” and that US allies do not support its withdrawal. And he warned that “the withdrawal will exacerbate differences between the West and Russia and increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict.”
Since coming to power in January, the Democratic president has been quick to return to the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, as well as to the difficult negotiations to return to the Iran nuclear deal.
Since the beginning of his tenure, he has reached a compromise with Putin to extend the New START treaty to limit the spread of nuclear arsenals for five years.
But with regard to the “Open Skies” treaty, the Biden administration initially remained secretive, before announcing in early May that it had begun a review of its withdrawal.
With the withdrawal from the “Open Skies” treaty, New START becomes the only major security agreement still in effect between the two nuclear powers.
Although Joe Biden shows great firmness towards Russia, stressing sanctions and threats of responses to Moscow’s activities that he considers “harmful” (interference in elections, cyber-attacks, military deployments on the Ukrainian border, and the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny), but he affirms his will to reach a ground of understanding on issues related to security. International.
But the US president faced criticism from the Republican opposition as well as his Democratic camp, for abandoning the imposition of decisive sanctions against the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany. The first meeting between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Sergei Lavrov was held last week in a calm atmosphere in Iceland.
Washington continues to change its positions regarding US-Russian relations, which are currently at their lowest level since the Cold War, but this time it seems that it wants to send a firm message.
To justify the decision on the “Open Skies” treaty, a US State Department spokesman said, “Russia’s behavior, including its recent steps with respect to Ukraine, is not the behavior of a partner committed to building confidence.”