Putin Moves to Quit Open Skies as Russia Looks to Biden Summit

Putin Moves to Quit Open Skies as Russia Looks to Biden Summit
Source: Bloomberg
By Ilya Arkhipov

President Vladimir Putin moved to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty already abandoned by the U.S., as Russia said it hopes summit talks with President Joe Biden will focus on strategic stability.

The Kremlin sent a bill to the lower house of parliament Tuesday formally repudiating the treaty, saying remaining bound by its terms would be a “threat to the national interests of the Russian Federation.” State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said lawmakers would act quickly to consider the proposal.

Russia has to withdraw because otherwise the U.S. will continue to receive information via its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies that are also signatories to the agreement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “Russia won’t receive this information” about the U.S., he said.

Strategic stability and arms control should be among the “main issues” for the planned Putin-Biden summit talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference Tuesday during a visit to Azerbaijan. No date or venue has been announced yet for the summit, which may take place next month.

Then-President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew the U.S. in November from the Open Skies agreement, accusing Russia of non-compliance, a charge Moscow rejected. The treaty allowed the two sides to monitor military activity through surveillance flights over each other’s territory.

Signed in 1992 and ratified by 34 states, the accord that came into force in 2002 will have little practical use without the involvement of the two leading nuclear powers. Biden hasn’t reversed the U.S. withdrawal.

The Open Skies agreement has only “symbolical significance” as both sides now rely on satellite monitoring, said Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s public advisory board. “It was important as a symbol of trust, but because there is no longer any trust between the U.S. and Russia, this treaty dies.”