The Biden administration announced Thursday it will not rejoin a major arms agreement—the Open Skies Treaty—blaming alleged violations by Russia.
“This decision is unfortunate,” tweeted Shannon Bugos, research associate with the Arms Control Association, in response to the news.
The international agreement was signed in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. It allows its over 30 state parties to conduct unarmed aerial observation flights over each others’ territories and, according to its proponents, builds trust and lessens the risk of accidental war.
“Open Skies is a multilateral treaty to help prevent a miscommunication or lack of transparency from spiraling into full-fledged conflict or war,” Jon Wolfsthal, senior advisor to anti-nuclear weapons group Global Zero, said Thursday.
“It has helped keep the peace for decades,” he continued. “It was a mistake for [former President Donald] Trump to withdraw from the treaty, and confirming the decision will make it harder for the Biden administration to reassure our allies that we have their backs, or that we can manage a potential crisis with Russia.”
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In a Thursday statement, the State Department said the “United States regrets that the Treaty on Open Skies has been undermined by Russia’s violations.”
“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 statement added.
The Trump administration withdrew from the treaty in 2020, sparking criticism from nuclear experts and anti-war activists including Win Without War advocacy director Erica Fein, who warned at the time that the withdrawal “puts us further down the path of nuclear brinkmanship.”
Democratic lawmakers also criticized Trump’s move, as did then-presidential candidate Biden.
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