A Russian Air Force aircraft performed an observation flight over central Washington and the suburbs of the U.S. capital city, including Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 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.
According to CNN and Politico, it was a regular observation flight under the Open Skies Treaty. A Russian Tu-154M plane flew 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.
Meanwhile, a US State Department official confirmed that the path of the observation flight had been completely agreed by Washington and Moscow.
“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.”
Treaty on Open Skies:
Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 party states.
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 John Stamos; 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.
The 34 state parties to the Open Skies Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark (including Greenland), Estonia, Finland, France, the Republic of Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed the treaty but has not yet ratified it.
Canada and Hungary are the Depositories of the treaty in recognition of their special contributions to the Open Skies process. The “Depository” countries maintain treaty documents and provide administrative support.