WASHINGTON, August 10. /TASS/. A Russian aerospace force plane on Wednesday performed an observation flight over central Washington and the suburbs of the US capital city, including Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Congress and the White House, CNN said later in the day citing two anonymous sources informed about this flight made under the Open Skies Treaty.
The flight’s route
According to CNN and Politico, it was a regular observation flight under the Open Skies Treaty. A Russian Tu-154M plane flew over over the Joint Base Andrews in Maryland which is used to receive aircraft of foreign leavers arriving in the United States and organize flights of the US leader. After that, the Russian plane was to fly over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump is spending his vacations. And finally, the Tu-154M allegedly flew over the countryside residence of US leaders in Camp David, Maryland, near the Wright-Patterson air force base in Ohio and near the Mount Weather emergency operations center in Virginia.
Reaction of US administration
Meanwhile, a US State Department official confirmed to TASS that the path of the observation flight had been completely agreed by Washington and Moscow. Moreover, the US side took part in the development of the flight’s route, she said.
"The United States is notified ahead of time of the intended flight path of observation flights, participates in the development of agreed flight plans, has U.S. observers on the aircraft during the flight, and receives a copy of the imagery taken by the Russian aircraft at the conclusion of the mission," she stressed. "The Treaty does not preclude an observed State Party from taking mitigation measures at sensitive sites on the ground."
According to the official, since 2002, when the Open Skies Treaty came into force, "over 1,300 flights have been conducted." "The Open Skies Treaty is a confidence and security building measure that seeks to enhance military transparency by allowing the 34 States Parties to conduct observation flights over other Treaty partners," she said. "It contributes to Euro-Atlantic security by allowing the collection of imagery and information on military forces and supporting the verification of compliance with arms control agreements."
About the treaty
Developed with Moscow’s active participation, the Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002. It currently has 34 member states. The treaty establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Observation flights are made over the territories of the United States, Canada, European countries, and Russia. The main purposes of the open skies regime are to develop transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with the existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations within the scope of the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other relevant international organizations. Subsequently, it is contemplated to apply the open skies regime to new fields, such as environmental protection.
In practical terms, the treaty allows signatory states to perform observations flights over any part of the observed state party’s territory to monitor military activities in conformity with the agreed quotas of such missions. The treaty regulates observation flights procedures, establishes a mechanism of control over its observance, sets requirements to the aircraft and observation equipment.
This year, Russia and Belarus have the right to conduct 42 observations missions over the territories of the treaty’s member states. Over signatories to the treaty plan to perform 34 observation missions over Russia in 2017.
Despite the fact that the treaty in general has proved to be an efficient instrument of building up trust and exercising control over the implementation of weapons reduction agreements, its efficiency has been going down in the recent time due to the decision of NATO member states to conduct no such flight over each other’s territories, the Russian foreign ministry said, adding that now Russia has to rely only on its own capacities of getting required information concerning the territory of these countries. Such situation, according to Moscow, tilts information balance and harms the treaty and runs counter to its spirit.