MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Friday called a U.S. decision to not rejoin the Open Skies arms control pact, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, a political mistake that strikes a sour note ahead of a summit, Russian news agencies reported.
The United States told Russia on Thursday it would not rejoin the pact, which Washington left in November, accusing Russia of violating it, something Moscow denied.
The original decision to quit the pact was taken by the administration of then U.S. president Donald Trump and Moscow had hoped that Joe Biden would reverse that decision.
Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, was quoted by the RIA news agency on Friday as saying that Moscow was disappointed but not entirely surprised by Biden’s decision.
“It certainly does not make us happy, it is disappointing because the U.S. has missed another chance…to make a positive contribution to the task of strengthening security in Europe,” RIA cited Ryabkov as saying.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden are due to hold a summit in Geneva next month and Ryabkov was cited as saying that the U.S. refusal to rejoin Open Skies did not create an atmosphere conducive to arms control discussions at the summit.
“The U.S. has made another political mistake, inflicting a new blow on the European security system,” TASS quoted Ryabkov as saying.
“We gave them a good chance, which they did not take. They continue circulating fabrications about Russia’s violations of this agreement, which is completely absurd.”
The Russian government, which in January announced its own plans to leave the pact, on May 11 submitted legislation to parliament to formalise its departure.
At that time, a Kremlin spokesman said one reason was that the United States was still able to receive information acquired via the treaty from its NATO allies.
The treaty, which was signed in 1992 and entered into force in 2002, permits nations to carry out short-notice, unarmed surveillance flights over the entire territory of the other parties.
The purpose of the treaty, which allows nations to collect information on one another’s military forces, is to increase transparency and build confidence among countries.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Alexander Marrow; editing by Andrew Osborn)