Russia will formally ask permission today to start flying a particularly sophisticated ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) platform over the United States as part of the Open Skies Treaty. Reportedly, the request will be made to the Open Skies Consultative Commission, based in Vienna, Austria.
For the uninitiated, Open Skies allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of the thirty-four member nations to “foster transparency” about military activity and help monitor arms control and other such accords. It was signed originally in March of 1992, but went into full effect on 1 January of 2002. The original concept was proposed in 1955 by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but not surprisingly the response from our friends in Russia was a resounding one along the lines of, “Nyet!”
In response to this latest request, senior leaders in the intelligence community and Department of Defense are not super keen on the idea of having Russian aircraft prowling the skies and conducting photography using ultra-high-resolution surveillance cameras. Just a hunch, of course.
So if the Russians make their request as expected, it will put our current administration in the position of allowing said flights during this period of time when tension between the U.S. and Russia is as high as it has been in quite some time–thanks to Russian presence in both Syria and Ukraine. And, according to a compliance report in the possession of the State Department, Russia isn’t in compliance with the terms of Open Skies, anyway.
“The [Open Skies] treaty has become a critical component of Russia’s intelligence collection capability directed at the United States,” Admiral Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) wrote in a letter earlier this year to Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama who currently sits as Chairman of a House subcommittee on strategic forces.
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