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Russia inspectors to make observation flight over US territory

September 26, 2011, 12:02 UTC+3

This year it is already the 27th flight of Russian observers over the territories of the States Parties to the Treaty

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MOSCOW, September 26 (Itar-Tass) — Russian inspectors will conduct in late September an observation flight over the US territory within the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies, the RF Defence Ministry's press and information department told Itar-Tass on Monday.

“The Russian group of inspectors plans to perform before October 1 an observation flight on a Tupolev Tu-154 Lk-1 plane over the US territory taking off from the Travis Air Force Base in California,” the Defence Ministry specified. “This year it is already the 27th flight of Russian observers over the territories of the States Parties to the Treaty.”

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed by 27 states in 1992 and ratified by all parties in 1995. The main objective of the “open skies” regime is to develop openness and transparency, help monitor the implementation of existing or future agreements on arms control and to enhance crisis prevention and crisis management within the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and in other relevant international organisations. The possibility of extending the “open skies” regime to new areas, such as environmental protection, is envisaged in the future.

The Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 States Parties. It establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international efforts to date promoting openness and transparency of military forces and activities. The concept of “mutual aerial observation” was initially proposed to Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin at the Geneva Conference of 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower; however, the Soviets promptly rejected the concept and it lay dormant for several years. The treaty was eventually signed as an initiative of US president (and former Director of Central Intelligence) George H. W. Bush in 1989. Negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the agreement was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992.

Open Skies aircraft may have video, optical panoramic and framing cameras for daylight photography, infra-red line scanners for a day/night capability, and synthetic aperture radar for a day/night all weather capability. Photographic image quality will permit recognition of major military equipment (e.g., permit a State Party to distinguish between a tank and a truck), thus allowing significant transparency of military forces and activities. Sensor categories may be added and capabilities improved by agreement among States Parties. All sensors used in Open Skies must be commercially available to all signatories. Imagery resolution is limited to 30 centimetres.

Each State Party is obligated to receive observation flights per its passive quota allocation. Each State Party may conduct as many observation flights - its active quota - as its passive quota. During the first three years after EIF, each State will be obligated to accept no more than seventy-five percent of its passive quota. Since the overall annual passive quota for the United States is 42, this means that it will be obligated to accept no more than 31 observation flights a year during this three-year period. Only two flights were requested over the United States during 2005, by the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus Group of States Parties (which functions as a single entity for quota allocation purposes). The United States is entitled to 8 of the 31 annual flights available over Russia/Belarus. Additionally, the United States is entitled to one flight over Ukraine, which is shared with Canada.

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