Russian planes were scrambled nine times during the past ten days to intercept foreign aircraft near Russian borders, the Russian Defense Ministry said in its weekly infographics published on Friday.
According to the ministry’s data, 30 foreign aircraft conducted air surveillance near the Russian borders. “Any violation of the Russian airspace was prevented,” the ministry said.
Last week, the Russian military conducted two inspections in foreign states – in Poland as part of the Open Skies Treaty and in Czech Republic under the Vienna Document 2011 on confidence and security-building measures in Europe.
Four foreign military inspections were carried out on the Russian territory in the reported period. An inspection by Finnish military experts was carried out as part of the Open Skies Treaty and a joint Polish-Italian mission took place in line with the Vienna Document 2011. Besides, OPCW experts also visited Russia, as well as US military officials who monitored its compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
NATO is preparing a plan of action in response to the alleged violation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty), as reported on Thursday on the website of the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. Radio and television broadcasters NDR and WDR have also reported this information.
The newspaper managed to view a copy of the classified document, which was sent out from Brussels to the member countries of the alliance. It lists 39 possible actions in response to the violation of the INF Treaty.
In particular, the expansion of the early warning system, the strengthening of anti-submarine defense, and the more active use of B-52 bombers in Europe could be implemented.
In addition, as a possible response, it suggested actions aimed at “nuclear deterrence,” however the article does not explain what exactly is meant by this.
At the same time, the document entitled “What would be if,” categorically excludes such options as the introduction of new sanctions against Russia or the withdrawal of the United States from the treaty, the newspaper writes.
The termination of the Treaties on missile armament cuts and liquidation will affect Europe’s security, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday.
Germany’s top diplomat made this statement after a meeting with experts of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Nuclear Weapons Cuts from Russia, the United States and Germany.
“The possible termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the non-prolongation of the New START Treaty [the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms] are what will eventually threaten Europe, in the first place,” Gabriel said.
The German foreign minister also said he shared the experts’ opinion that “the worst Cold War mistakes are repeated” and the world is at the stage of “Cold War 2.0.”
According to him, European countries should become active participants in the disarmament discussion.
“Germany should speak more actively with the United States, with Russia about this within the NATO framework,” the foreign minister said.
At the same time, Social Democrat Gabriel again lashed at the Conservatives in the German government who advocated a sharp increase in defense spending.
“In this regard, it is more important to double the efficiency of expenditures rather than their volume,” he said.
“I expect that the political leadership in [the Christian Democratic/Christian Social] Union won’t yield to the militarist logic [of US President Donald Trump] and this is what exactly is taking place now,” the German foreign minister said, noting that such policy could become a problem for Berlin.
Experts from the United Kingdom and Norway will conduct an observation flight over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty on August 24-28, Russia’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center head said Monday.
The plane and the equipment onboard have passed international certification, eliminating the use of technology not covered by the treaty. Russian experts will control the adherence to the treaty during the flight.
“During the August 24-28 period, a mission from Norway and the United Kingdom will conduct an observation flight over the Russian territory on a Romanian AN-30 [NATO reporting name Clank] observation plane within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty,” Sergei Ryzhkov told reporters.
The 34-nation Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 in Finland and currently applies most NATO member states, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Sweden. The treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territory of its participants with the aim of boosting transparency of military activities.
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.
The contentious exchanges between Russian and NATO aircraft above Europe carried over into cyberspace early on Friday.
“6 interceptions of @NATO recon planes on our borders last week,” The Russian embassy in the UK tweeted Friday morning.
“Transparency, provided for by Open Skies Treaty, not enough?” the tweet concluded.
Russian aircraft and their NATO counterparts have had numerous encounters in recent months, especially in the skies over the Baltics, where both forces are highly active.
The Open Skies Treaty, which Russia and the US are party to, “is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them,” according to the US State Department.
Moscow claims that 20 foreign aircraft, six of which were intercepted, flew close to the Russian border this last week, but would not provide additional details about the alleged incidents, according to Newsweek. But Russia also admitted that NATO planes didn’t stray from international airspace.
The Lithuanian Defence Ministry, however, also says that NATO jets intercepted Russian IL-20 aircraft in two separate incidents on July 4 and 7.
A Russian spokesperson told Newsweek that those two incidents were a “necessity, not luxury unlike what is done by NATO,” adding “We mind our legitimate business.” A NATO spokesperson also told Newsweek that “allies and NATO routinely fly reconnaissance aircraft over Central Europe … This is done in a safe and professional manner and in accordance with international law.”
Russian and NATO jets and ships have been playing a game of cat and mouse in Eastern Europe over the last few years.
Between March 2014 and April 2017 there have been 97 midair confrontations between Russian and western aircraft, according to western officials and advocacy group Global Zero. That was more than two-thirds of all air interceptions in the world during that period. Russian aircraft are usually the ones executing unsafe interceptions.
Between June 2 and June 20, there were at least 35 such interactions between Russian and NATO planes and ships in the Baltic Sea, according to Fox News.
Western officials and analysts believe Russia is doing this in response to conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and other areas. Russia has labelled such accusations “total Russophobia.”
Russia will be conducting an Open Skies observation flight in Finland 26 – 28 June 2017. The mission will be flown using Russia’s certificated Open Skies observation aircraft, the Antonov An-30. The mission conforms to the Open Skies Treaty.
The Antonov An-30 will carry 17 crew and observers, including three Finnish Defence Force Personnel. The Finnish mission leader for the observation flight is Lieutenant Commander Kari Ahrnberg of the Defence Command Finland.
Open Skies is a treaty that aims to promote transparency and security in Europe. The treaty allows the signatories to conduct observation flights and take aerial photographs over the territories of its member states when these have been planned and announced beforehand. Finland signed the agreement in February 2003.