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US, Norway inspectors to make observation flight over RF, Belarus

October 24, 2011, 18:30 UTC+3

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed by 27 states in 1992 and ratified by all parties in 1995

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MOSCOW, October 24 (Itar-Tass) — A group of inspectors from the United States and Norway in the period from 24 to 29 October will perform an observation flight over the territories of Russia and Belarus, within the framework of the international Treaty on Open Skies, the press service of the RF Defence Ministry told Itar-Tass.

“The surveillance plane OC-135B and equipment installed on it have passed the necessary international certification, and representatives of Russia and Belarus took part in the procedure,” the Defence Ministry noted. “The flight will be made on a route coordinated with the Russian and Belarusian specialists who will monitor on board the plane the observance of agreements on the use of surveillance technology.”

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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