Russia Takes First Steps to Leave Treaty Allowing Surveillance Over Military Bases

The upper house of Russia's parliament voted to withdraw on Wednesday from an international treaty that allows surveillance flights over military facilities, the Associated Press reported.

U.S. officials told Moscow in May that President Joe Biden's administration would not re-enter the Open Skies Treaty. The agreement enabled surveillance flights over military facilities prior to President Donald Trump's withdrawal.

Biden criticized Trump's withdrawal on the campaign trail, calling it "short-sighted." Russian officials are ready to reverse the withdrawal procedure to stay in the 1992 treaty if the U.S. returns to the pact.

The treaty was meant to improve trust between Russia and the West by allowing the accord's three-dozen-plus signatories to send reconnaissance flights over each other's territories and collect intelligence on military forces and activity.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Putin
The upper house of Russia's parliament voted on Wednesday to withdraw from the international Open Skies Treaty that allows surveillance flights over military facilities. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves during a military parade on Victory Day at Red Square on May 9, 2021, in Moscow. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

After the Russian upper house voted to leave the treaty, it would now come to Russian President Vladimir Putin for signing. If Putin endorses the exit, it would take effect in six months.

Putin and Biden are to have a summit in Geneva on June 16. The meeting comes as Russia-U.S. ties have sunk to the lowest levels since the Cold War times after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the accusations of Moscow's interference in U.S. elections, hacking attacks and other irritants.

More than 1,500 flights have been conducted under the treaty since it took effect in 2002, aimed at fostering transparency and allowing for the monitoring of arms control and other agreements.

Trump pulled out of the pact last year, arguing that Russian violations made it untenable for Washington to remain a party. Washington completed its withdrawal from the treaty in November.

Moscow has deplored the U.S. withdrawal, warning that it will erode global security by making it more difficult for governments to interpret the intentions of other nations, particularly amid heightened Russia-West tensions.

The European Union has urged the U.S. to reconsider its exit and called on Russia to stay in the pact and lift flight restrictions, notably over its westernmost Kaliningrad region, which lies between NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.

Russia has insisted the restrictions on observation flights it imposed in the past were permissible under the treaty and noted that the U.S. imposed more sweeping restrictions on observation flights over Alaska.

As a condition for staying in the pact after the U.S. pullout, Moscow has unsuccessfully pushed for guarantees from NATO allies that they wouldn't hand over the data collected during their observation flights over Russia to the U.S.

Paratroopers
The upper house of Russia's parliament voted on Wednesday to withdraw from the international Open Skies Treaty that allows surveillance flights over military facilities. Above, Russian paratroopers march the Victory Day military parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2021, marking the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo