A Russian surveillance plane just soared over the Washington, D. C. airspace on Wednesday collecting intelligence. The spy plane flew in secure airspace over the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other government buildings according to two U.S. officials. Of course in this hyper partisanship age, the media went nuts over. However, what was discovered was that this is part of a treaty signed in 1992.
It was a Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft, and it was able to make its flight because of the Treaty on Open Skies. The treaty is between Russia, the United States, and 32 other nations. The signed agreement allows for countries to make unarmed observation flights over other nations to promote transparency and international arms control, according to our State Department.
The Capitol Police gave an alert on Wednesday that an “authorized low-altitude aircraft” would enter restricted airspace between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The warning did not relay who’s country the plane was from but said it “will be large and may fly directly over the U.S. Capitol. This flight will be monitored by U.S. Capitol Police and other federal government agencies,” the alert concluded.
A Defense Department official spoke on condition of anonymity and confirmed that the flight was Russian. This flight was expected to be followed by another one Wednesday evening that will fly over President Trump’s property in Bedminster, N.J., where Trump is vacationing.
According to the treaty stipulations, U.S. airmen are aboard the Russian jet when an Open Skies flight occurs. But at least one military leader believes that Russia may be taking advantage of the treaty. Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities that he would “love” to deny future Russian flights over the United States through this treaty.
“The things that you can see, the amount of data you can collect, the things you can do with post-processing, allows Russia, in my opinion, to get incredible foundational intelligence on critical infrastructure, bases, ports, all of our facilities,” Stewart said in March of last year. “So from my perspective, it gives them a significant advantage.”
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis defended the program saying, “We have to remember that while we have pretty good intelligence on a lot of the world, a lot of other countries don’t necessarily have that great of intelligence on us,” Davis said. “So, in the interest of transparency and miscalculation on their part, sometimes it’s worthwhile to allow them to have a look at what you’re doing or what you’re not doing.”
Now what the Washington Post didn’t tell you was that this treaty was signed on March 24, 1992 and the US flew its first mission over Russia in 2002.
Since 2002 a total of 40 missions have taken place over the UK there were 24 quota missions conducted by: Russia—20; Ukraine—three; and Sweden—one. There were 16 training flights conducted by: Benelux (joint with Estonia); Estonia (joint with Benelux); Georgia—three (one joint with Sweden); Sweden—three (one joint with Georgia); USA – three; Latvia; Lithuania; Romania; Slovenia; and Yugoslavia. Also since 2002 the UK has undertaken a total of 51 open skies missions. 38 were quota missions to the following countries: Ukraine (five); Georgia (seven) and Russia (26). 13 missions were training missions to the following nations: Bulgaria; Yugoslavia; Estonia; Slovenia (three); Sweden (three); USA; Latvia, Lithuania and the Benelux. The flights cost approximately £50,000 per operational mission, and approximately £25,000 for training missions with an approximate annual cost of £175,000.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman stated on 4 February 2016 that Turkey had refused a Russian Open Skies mission, planned to take place in 1–5 February 2016, to fly over areas adjacent to Syria, as well as over NATO airbases. According to Russia, Turkey gave no explanation regarding the limitations and claimed them to indicate illegal military activity in Syrian territory. The OSCC hasn’t commented on the alleged violation of the Treaty by Turkey.
What do you think about this program? Is the value of transparency worth the risk?
Credit: Washington Post