Russia to Follow U.S. in Leaving Open Skies Treaty

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Russia to Follow U.S. in Leaving Open Skies Treaty

MOSCOW—Russia will follow the U.S. in withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty, stripping away some of the last arms-control architecture designed during the Cold War to prevent armed conflict between Moscow and the West.

Moscow’s announcement Friday leaves the incoming Biden administration to grapple with arms-control arrangements that have unraveled in recent years. President Trump withdrew from treaties he said Moscow was violating and were obsolete without China’s inclusion. His administration left the Open Skies Treaty in November, and failed to agree to the extension of another agreement, due to expire next month, that restricts the number of Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads.

Moscow has denied violating arms-control agreements, including the multilateral Open Skies Treaty, which allows Russia and the West to carry out unarmed reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories.

On Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry attributed Moscow’s move to “the lack of progress in removing obstacles for the continued functioning of the agreement.” Moscow is worried that the U.S.’s withdrawal restricts its access to American territory, while Washington’s allies in Europe can continue flyovers over Russian territory to collect intelligence that could be handed to the U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December that without access to U.S. territory, the treaty was meaningless for Moscow. He has warned that the unraveling of treaties could lead to a new arms race.

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