Ukrainian, German, Swedish Observers to Fly Over Russia Under Open Skies

A Boeing OC-135B Open Skies aircraft - the type used in this week's US-Ukrainian overflight over Russia.

 

Ukrainian, German and Swedish experts will carry out a joint observation flight over Russian territory under the Open Skies Treaty this week, the acting head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Nuclear Risk Reduction Center said.

 Zabello added that the flight would take place along an agreed route and Russian specialists on board of the aircraft would monitor compliance with the agreed parameters for the flight and the use of observation equipment.

“From August 8 to 12, as part of the international Open Skies Treaty, a joint Ukraine-Germany-Sweden mission will perform an observation flight over the Russian territory on a Swedish Saab-340B observation aircraft,” Sergei Zabello said in a statement, published on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website on Monday.

According to Zabello, the Saab-340B observation aircraft is not equipped with any types of weapons.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 and became one of the major confidence-building measures in Europe after the Cold War. It entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 states parties, including Russia and most NATO members.

US Surveillance Flight Makes Emergency Landing in Siberia

OC-135B Open Skies

 

A US aircraft carrying out an observation flight over Russia was forced to make an emergency landing at Khabarovsk’s airport due to an apparent landing gear malfunction.

The aircraft took off from Ulan-Ude, a city to the east of Lake Baikal, and was heading to the Russian city of Yakutsk. However, one of the plane’s landing gears had apparently malfunctioned and failed to retract after takeoff, so the crew decided to make a forced landing in Khabarovsk, RIA Novosti reports.The Khabarovsk airport administration also confirmed that an aircraft with a stuck landing gear made an unscheduled landing there.

“A foreign aircraft made a forced landing in Khabarovsk. All emergency ground services have arrived on site. The flight landed safely at 3 P.M. local time,” airport officials said.

Earlier, Russian Defense Ministry Nuclear Risk Reduction Center officials announced that a US Boeing OC-135B aircraft would conduct an observation flight over Russian territory between July 25 and 30.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 and became one of the major confidence-building measures in Europe after the Cold War. It entered into force on January 1, 2002; 34 states are currently party to the treaty, including Russia and most NATO members.

The treaty establishes an unarmed aerial surveillance program whereby signatory states may conduct flights over the entire territory of fellow participants.

I See You: What Russia Stands to Gain by Adhering to the Open Skies Treaty

AN-30B Russian Air Force

 

This week, American and Ukrainian pilots began a joint observation flight over Russian territory under the Treaty on Open Skies. Speaking to one of Russia’s leading independent online news and analysis portals, military analyst Yuri Kotov explained what Russia stands to gain by adhering to the treaty.

On Monday, Russian Defense Ministry Nuclear Risk Reduction Center head Sergei Ryzhkov told reporters that a joint US-Ukrainian mission would be performing a flight over Russian territory in a US Boeing OC-135B observation aircraft from July 18 to 23. In response, Russian observers are flying over German territory in an Antonov An-30B aerial reconnaissance aircraft between July 18 and 22.

The specially-equipped observation planes, neither fitted with onboard weaponry, have passed the necessary certification according to the 1992 treaty. Russian specialists will be present onboard the American plane, with German specialists onboard the Russian aircraft. This setup is aimed at ensuring strict control over the use of surveillance equipment, Kotov explained.The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992, becoming one of the major confidence-building measures in Europe following the Cold War. Entering into force on January 1, 2002, the treaty is observed by 34 states, including Russia and most members of the North Atlantic Alliance.

A Boeing OC-135B Open Skies aircraft - the type used in this week's US-Ukrainian overflight over Russia.
© Wikipedia/
A Boeing OC-135B Open Skies aircraft – the type used in this week’s US-Ukrainian overflight over Russia.

Commenting on the news, Svobodnaya Pressa columnist Svetlana Gomzikova recalled that “the purpose of this treaty, formally, is virtuous, and aimed at strengthening mutual understanding and trust between countries. Above all, it allows countries to track the movement of troops, to openly gather information on armed forces on the territory of the treaty countries.”

“But do we need such openness today?” the journalist asked. “There were many declarations made in the 1990s, including a promise by NATO that the alliance would not advance one inch to the East [past Germany]. And where is NATO now? On our borders.” In this light, the journalist asked, “what kind of open skies can we speak of given these conditions? Is it time perhaps to withdraw from the treaty?”

Speaking to the newspaper, Yuri Knutov, military analyst and director of the Air Defenses Forces Museum outside Moscow, explained what the treaty was about, and exactly what Russia stands to gain from continuing to honor the treaty.

According to the expert, Russia has little to gain from withdrawing from the treaty and, on the contrary, its role in assuring effective monitoring of the NATO countries’ militaries makes the treaty “simply vital.”

“Withdrawing from the treaty generally offers little benefit; today reconnaissance satellites allow for successful monitoring of the movement of troops. Planes make it easier; their lower altitude allows for more detailed observation. With help of planes, it’s possible to clarify data received from space surveillance.  In other words, it’s possible to see what can be concealed more thoroughly from satellites.”

On the other hand, Knutov also emphasized that “it’s still impossible to hide a mass movement of troops from satellite reconnaissance.”

What’s more, the analyst explained that for Moscow, participation in the Treaty on Open Skies is necessary more from the perspective of international law, not the treaty’s military implications.

On every major international issue, Knutov noted, “Moscow is fighting for the preservation and precedency of international law. We prove that the Americans, in invading Iraq, violated international law; that France and its allies, having bombed Libya, trampled international law; that when Yugoslavia was destroyed, international law too was violated.”From this perspective, the expert suggested, “a withdrawal from the treaty would be akin to violating the requirements of international law, and this is unacceptable. We must on the contrary do everything in our power to ensure that all agreements are adhered to. Only in this way will it be possible to ensure international stability.”

Effectively, Knutov noted, “when these flights are carried out, it’s a good thing. It was a bad thing when Turkey, for example, prohibits us from doing so.” In February, at the height of Russian-Turkish tensions, Ankara refused to grant Moscow permission for an observation flight over the Turkish-Syrian border, a direct violation of the treaty.

Therefore, the analyst suggested that the present crisis in NATO-Russia relations is all the more reason to continue the overflights.

Following the NATO summit in Warsaw earlier this month, the alliance agreed to the deployment of four battalions in Poland and the Baltic states. Before that, NATO carried out a series of mass exercises across Eastern Europe, which also saw the transfer of heavy equipment, including armored vehicles, tanks and artillery, to the region.

At the same time, Knutov recalled, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter issued a directive recently on the creation of a 40,000-strong rapid deployment force, capable of deploying anywhere in Europe within 48 hours. “Now imagine these 40,000 troops being moved to those areas where military equipment has already been deployed,” the expert commented.

“In reality, after the decisions made at the Warsaw Summit are implemented, our borders will see the deployment of 150,000 NATO troops, not four battalions,” the analyst emphasized. “Together with the Polish army, they will be able to capture Kaliningrad within several days…Therefore, observation flights will allow us to keep track of several things. In addition to satellites, our aircraft will help to see where this NATO infrastructure is being built up, where and what is being built. This is very important for us.”

Ultimately, Knutov noted, so long as Russian observers do not face any limitations regarding which countries they fly to, and which flight paths they allowed to observe, it will remain beneficial for Russia to observe the treaty.Asked whether Ukraine, which has repeatedly made outlandish claims about Russian troops fighting in the country’s war-torn region of Donbass, will finally be made to feel at ease following the joint US-Ukrainian flight, the analyst said it was doubtful, since Kiev’s rhetoric has always been made with political purposes in mind.

“Kiev understands the situation perfectly well. There are thirty thousand Russian soldiers along our western borders, from Arkhangelsk in the north to Crimea in the south. On the Ukrainian side, there are 150,000. Is there a difference? In other words, we cannot threaten anyone with these troop levels. The Americans and NATO know these numbers, and so do Ukraine’s leaders. Meanwhile, what they say in relation to Russia is a shameless lie – designed to get certain preferences from NATO – to get weapons and unleash a war with Russia.”

Turkey, Italy to Hold Observation Flight Over Russia Under Open Skies Deal

Russian inspectors will conduct observation flights over the territories of Spain and Portugal at the beginning of March, under the Treaty on Open Skies, head of Russia's National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center Sergei Ryzhkov has announced

 

Turkish and Italian experts will carry out a joint observation flight over Russia’s territory under the Open Skies Treaty this week, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Nuclear Risk Reduction Center said.

 According to Ryzhkov, Russia in its turn is expected to carry out an observation flight over the Norwegian territory in the same time period. This will be Russia’s 21st observation flight over foreign territory in 2016, he added.

“From July 11 to 15, as part of the international Open Skies Treaty, a joint Turkish-Italian mission will perform an observation flight over the territory of the Russian Federation in a Turkish observation aircraft CN-235,” Sergei Ryzhkov said.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 and became one of the major confidence-building measures in Europe after the Cold War. It entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 states parties, including Russia and most NATO members.

US, Canada to Hold Observation Flight Over Russia

C-130 Hercules

 

Еhe head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Nuclear Risk Reduction Center said that the United States and Canada will carry out an observation flight over Russia’s territory under the Open Skies Treaty.

 The United States and Canada will carry out an observation flight over Russia’s territory under the Open Skies Treaty, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Nuclear Risk Reduction Center said Monday.

“From July 4 until July 9, in the frameworks of the Open Skies Treaty, joint mission of the United States and Canada will hold an observation flight of the Canadian C-130 observation aircraft over Russia’s territory,” Sergei Ryzhkov said.

According to Ryzhkov, the aircraft will take off from the Tiksi airport in the Russian region of Yakutia.

Ryzhkov also noted that Russian specialists on board of the aircraft would monitor compliance with the agreed parameters for the flight and the use of observation equipment.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 and became one of the major confidence-building measures in Europe after the Cold War. It entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 states parties, including Russia and most NATO members.

Pentagon Looks to Burn Open Skies Treaty Based on Imaginary Russian Threat

Cockpit

 

In reality, Defense Department just forgot to make an appropriations request for digital sensors.

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man made object to orbit the Earth, which left President Dwight Eisenhower, a fierce opponent of the military-industrial complex a stark choice – he could accept the Kremlin’s right to traverse space above the US or he could combat the move by launching a military strike.

Eisenhower wisely chose the former and refused to engage in space warfare with the Soviets. Instead, the US President astutely called for a more cautious and productive action, in the form of reciprocity in transparency and intelligence gathering as a check against future conflict. It was on that basis that Eisenhower proposed an “Open Skies” agreement for cooperative aerial observation flights.

Eisenhower faced pressure internally and externally. Historians say that Eisenhower’s senior military advisers were furious at his acceptance of the Soviet’s surveillance capabilities over US airspace. Furthermore, his proposal for reciprocity with the Kremlin was rejected out of hand, as they realized that the US had more to gain by grasping a glimpse into their closed society.

The idea of openness and reciprocity in military surveillance remained dormant for another 30 years until, in the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev proposed the glasnost (openness) reforms. Gorbachev permitted foreign observers at Soviet military exercises and accepted Ronald Reagan’s disarmament challenge – “trust but verify” – in accepting invasive missile system inspections by international officials.

It was in that context, in the late 1980s, that President George H.W. Bush revived Eisenhower’s Open Skies proposal. President Gorbachev supported negotiations on this effort. Over a decade later, in 2002, the Open Skies Treaty was ratified, and, shortly after, cooperative aerial observation flights began between Russia and the US, two previous Cold War adversaries.

As the world descends into a potential second Cold War, however, the narrative surrounding the Open Skies Treaty has changed dramatically. In the past year, the Pentagon and NATO have both classified what they term as expansionism and aggression by Russia as the preeminent threat to world safety and security.

The Russians, for their part, are nonplussed by NATO saber rattling, with President Vladimir Putin commenting last year that the idea that Moscow would ever attack or invade a NATO-allied country is “the kind of thing only crazy people think and only when they are dreaming.”

Nonetheless, tensions continue to mount between East and West with the US military, along with NATO, ramping up its presence along the Russian border in Norway and a 400% increase in Eastern Europe military expenditures approved by the US Congress.

As the US prepares for an imaginary war to combat a fantasy threat of Russian expansion, the US Defense Intelligence Agency now argues that “the Open Skies construct was designed for a different era.” US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Commander Adm. Cecil Haney goes further, asserting that “the treaty has become a critical component of Russia’s intelligence collection.”

The Open Skies Treaty not only requires agreement on flight paths among all signatories but also calls for inspection of surveillance planes to prevent the use of high-intensity cameras, requires sensors designed solely for uncovering illicit missile and weapons facilities, and all data collected is instantly shared with all signatories. The treaty is truly limited to cooperation and transparency.

Why does the US object to the treaty, which serves a vital international imperative that Ronald Reagan once called for – “trust but verify” – and is the brainchild of President Dwight Eisenhower?

It turns out that the Pentagon looks to blow up a linchpin of international disarmament transparency because the Defense Department forgot to make an appropriations request for digital sensors. Perhaps the new DoD office motto is, “when in doubt, pretend the Russians are attacking.”

 

Turkey Blocks Russian Flight Under Open Skies Treaty, Moscow Vows Response

Antonov An-30

 

Ankara has violated the Open Skies Treaty by not allowing Russian inspectors to conduct a scheduled inspection flight over the Turkish territory, a move that Moscow will not leave without proper response, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russian inspectors were scheduled to perform an observation flight on board the An-30B plane over the Turkish territory within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty on February 1-5.

“The itinerary included the observation of areas adjacent to the Turkish border with Syria, as well as airfields that host NATO warplanes. However, after the arrival of the Russian mission to Turkey and the announcement of the desired itinerary, the Turkish military officials refused to allow the inspection flight citing an order from the Turkish Foreign Ministry,” head of the ministry’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center Sergey Ryzhkov said in a statement.

Ryzhkov called the Turkish move “a dangerous precedent of uncontrolled military activity carried out by a member of the Open Skies Treaty.

“We are not going to leave this violation of the treaty by Turkey without proper attention and adequate response,” the official stressed.