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US exit from Open Skies presents Russia with a difficult choice

US exit from Open Skies presents Russia with a difficult choice

Washington emerges from the most important treaty that provided our country with the opportunity to conduct legal reconnaissance over US territory – Open Skies. Why did the United States make such a decision, what is its hypocrisy and danger to the martial law of Russia, and how in general should Moscow react to what is happening?
The Open Skies agreement, signed back in 1992, was briefly as follows. Each signatory country (and this is not only Russia and the United States) had a quota for the flights of its aircraft with aerial cameras and a number of other surveillance systems over the territory of other signatory countries, as well as a mandatory quota for the admission of aircraft of other countries to fly over its territory. Such a measure was supposed to help reduce mutual tension between Russia, the countries of Europe, the USA and a number of other states. And she really contributed to this.

Russia under this treaty had the right to a certain number of observation flights over the territory of the United States and NATO, and in response was obliged to allow Americans and their allies to fly over its territory. I must say that these were indeed flights useful for the security of Russia, which made it possible to obtain information important for the country’s security without risk.

As usual, the West and its allies became the source of dissatisfaction with the Open Sky. Back in 2014, the United States abandoned one of its flights over Russia and began to put obstacles to our country in flights over the United States due to the appearance of the latest Tu-204ON aircraft, with the maximum possible set of equipment under the Treaty. Then, however, these problems did not lead to the severance of the Treaty. In 2016, Turkey, relations with which were at a very low level due to the destruction of our bomber by the Turks, banned the planned flight of a Russian aircraft over its territory.

In 2019, the Americans came up with a new set of accusations. According to them, Russia forbade flights of their aircraft closer than 10 kilometers to the border of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and also did not allow flying over Kaliningrad. In addition, Americans accused the Russian Federation of abusing the terms of the Treaty and using flights to collect information about the critical infrastructure of the United States.

In fact, of course, this was another example of American hypocrisy. Flights near South Ossetia and Abkhazia would obviously mean the receipt of intelligence information from the United States to the Georgian government, which could endanger the lives of Russian troops in these two countries. In addition, the very idea that Americans are so worried about Abkhazia and South Ossetia is ridiculous. Obviously, this is just an excuse.

Poland was guilty of problems with Kaliningrad, flying in such a way that it interfered with civilian flights, and did not want to change its approach to the Open Skies in any way. In addition, given the “adequacy” of Poland, it is easy to imagine that the data obtained during flights over Kaliningrad will be used for armed provocation, which is more and more likely as Poland rearms. It was precisely over Kaliningrad that I had to close the sky.

As for the alleged “abuse” of Russia in the study of American infrastructure, this is technically impossible – and, as is usually the case with American accusations, it was not supported by any evidence. Nevertheless, it was then, in 2019, that the Americans began to prepare their withdrawal from the Treaty.

And on May 21, 2020, Trump announced that, allegedly due to Russian violations of this Treaty, the US was withdrawing from it. True, the rest of the participants (NATO countries) continue to consider themselves parties to the Treaty and do not talk about withdrawing from it. Russia is still among them, but in any case, we will have to somehow react to the next American trick.

Implications for Russia

The first and obvious consequence of the US withdrawal from the “Open Skies” for our country is the loss of the ability to inspect military installations on American territory. At the same time, so far this loss is one-sided – at least in the USA some politicians are not embarrassed to say that they no longer needed this Agreement, since they can conduct monitoring of the territory of Russia in a different way. In particular, relying on both reconnaissance and commercial satellites performing space photography. And Russia, they say, is now at a disadvantage, since it does not have a satellite constellation comparable to the American one. The point thus is that the United States simply created a military advantage. But the problem is not only that.

Theoretically, Russia can continue to fly over European NATO countries that remain parties to the Treaty. Of course, the ability to conduct observation flights over Europe is important for our security.

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