Russia makes military move with Biden set to take office

President-elect Joe Biden is accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as he arrives to speak to reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty signals that the country does not intend to make it easy for the incoming Biden administration to reverse President Donald Trump’s rejection of a series of arms-control and military monitoring treaties. (Amr Alfiky/The New York Times)

MOSCOW — Russia said Friday that it was pulling out of a decades-old treaty that allowed countries to make military reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory, escalating its growing military competition with the United States and Europe just weeks before the incoming Biden administration will have to negotiate the extension of the central nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries.

The decision by President Vladimir Putin to leave the accord, the Open Skies Treaty, matches an action taken by President Donald Trump in May. While the treaty, which dates back to 1992, is of limited use to the United States, which has a network of spy satellites, it has been important to European allies as a way of keeping track of Russian troop movements along their borders.

When Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal, which was completed late last year, he predicted Putin was “going to come back and want to make a deal.” He did not. And Russia’s move signaled that the country did not intend to make it easy for the administration of Joe Biden to reverse Trump’s rejection of a series of arms control and military monitoring treaties.

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The Russian announcement, if followed by an official notification to the other remaining parties in the treaty, starts a six-month clock toward final withdrawal. The notification would also require a meeting of all the signatories — including the European nations who are most concerned about Russian activity after its years of incursions into Ukraine — within 60 days.

But Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that U.S. allies did not appear willing to save the treaty by satisfying Russia’s demands in recent months that with the United States out of the treaty, they no longer pass along any intelligence gathered through it to Washington.

“The Russian side offered concrete proposals to sustain the treaty under new conditions that corresponded to its foundational provisions,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We are disappointed to note that they did not receive support from allies of the United States.”