Article

What they fought for

Written by The Frontier Post

Viktor Litovkin

On December 19, Russia will finally and unconditionally withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty (OON). This happens exactly six months after the State Duma of the Russian Federation, at the suggestion of President Vladimir Putin, unanimously denounced the participation of our country in this agreement.
Let me remind you that Russia took such a step in response to the decision of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, to terminate the participation of the United States in the Don. At the same time, the 46th President of the States Joe Biden also did not return to compliance with his conditions. The Russian Federation had no choice but to also refuse to fulfill the requirements of this agreement, so as not to provide unilateral advantages to Western countries.
But why did Russia withdraw from the Don completely and unconditionally only six months after its denunciation? I will try to explain it with an everyday example: after two spouses apply to the court for divorce, they are given a month or two for reconciliation. The marriage union is considered to be terminated if this reconciliation did not take place. International treaties operate according to a similar scheme – after the announcement of the withdrawal of one or another country, there is six months to return to the agreement. After this period, the withdrawal is considered final. With all the ensuing consequences.
The reason is inequality
The Open Skies Treaty has been called one of the last pillars of trust between Russia and the United States, Russia and NATO. After the United States refused to participate in this agreement, it turned out that experts from NATO countries, making reconnaissance flights on their aircraft over Russian territory, photographing our military facilities and locations of troops, can transmit this information important to national security and defense. sovereign and curator – Washington, and Moscow will be deprived of the opportunity to receive similar information about the United States. Such inequality and unilateral advantage of the alliance could not suit the Russian military in any way.
At the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry, in order to save the treaty, has repeatedly suggested to its partners in the EU and NATO, members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, that they provide the Russian Federation in writing with an obligation not to transmit the information received to the United States after flights over Russian territory. But Brussels did not answer the call, and on Smolenskaya Square they made the only correct, in my opinion, decision.
It is interesting that after the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry about the launch of the procedure for withdrawing from the Don in European capitals – Berlin, Paris and so on – statements were made expressing regret and disappointment with this decision of Russia. The British Foreign Office even called on Moscow to “return to participation in the Don”. At the same time, it is curious that not a single EU or NATO country uttered any such words to Washington when they decided to stop cooperation with an open skies agreement. An interesting European adherence to principles is that what the United States can do is not permissible for Moscow.
What is DON
The Open Skies Treaty (DON) was signed on March 24, 1992 in Helsinki and entered into force after its ratification by all parties (34 countries – mainly European, as well as the USA and Canada) in 2002. It made it possible, upon notification of a partner state, to conduct observation flights over its entire territory by aircraft with certified observation equipment: cameras that shoot in the optical and infrared spectrum, and side-looking radars. DON set certain limits on the capabilities of the equipment – and even if it is inferior to military reconnaissance equipment and the best satellite technology, but surpasses what can be bought on the open commercial market. In addition, the plane, unlike the same satellite, can fly around the object from all angles and is less dependent on clouds.
The main advantage of DON is that all flights were conducted openly and served to build confidence between the parties to the agreement. A local officer must board a plane arriving in the country for a sightseeing flight to monitor the process of photographing – the overflight must take place along the route agreed in advance and according to the rules established by the contract. Each state had its own quota of flights over its neighbors. For example, Russia, like the United States, was entitled to 42 flights a year. But on the whole, naturally, the United States, together with its NATO allies, have flown over our country much more often than we have over them.
Why DON didn’t like the USA
Despite the fact that Washington and its NATO allies had an advantage over Moscow in terms of the number of flights, the United States withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty. Why?
The reasons are the same as those that under President Trump led to the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Economic Partne-rship (2016), the Climate Agreement (2016), from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian Nuclear Program (2015), from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, from The UN Human Rights Council and the all memorable 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from the World Health Or-ganization. The world also remembers Trump’s refusal to extend the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START-3), which, just a couple of days before its expiration, was signed by Joe Biden, who replaced Trump as president of the United States.
True, these rejections of international and bilateral agreements did not take place only under Trump. Even earlier, the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. They did not ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), did not ratify the 1999 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). They regularly violate the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), according to which “each of its nuclear-weapon states undertakes not to transfer or control over these weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to anyone. directly or indirectly; nor in any way assist, encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State,
Contrary to this treaty, the United States has de-ployed its B61 free-fall nuclear bombs in Europe and trained pilots from non-nuclear countries to use them on the battlefield. In-stalled on the aircraft of su-ch countries, equipment for the use of B61. Moreover, the NATO Nuclear Plann-ing Committee, which is chaired by Washington, includes all NATO countries except France, and they regularly discuss the use of nuclear weapons against NATO enemies. There is no need to explain who falls into this category.
The reason for this US behavior is that under Trump, before and after him – one. Washington considers their country free from any international obligations that run counter to their momentary selfish interests. They replace international law with some kind of set of “well-established rules” that allow them to behave on the planet like an elephant in a china shop, without paying any attention to the national interests of other states. Hence the aggressive wars, color revolutions, information and psychological campaigns against unwanted countries, political and diplomatic pressure on the leaders of individual states and an abundance of sanctions against everyone who disagrees with such American policy. And, of course, the waiver of any obligations that to some extent limit the actions of the United States. Under a pretext or even without a pretext. “America Above All”.
Claims versus claims
The United States itself named many reasons for leaving the Don. Let’s highlight the main ones. One of them was that they did not like the new filling of the Russian Tu-214ON aircraft. Our military installed digital observation equipment on it: optical panoramic and frame cameras, video cameras with images on the display in real time with a resolution on the ground not higher than 30 cm, side-looking radar stations with a synthetic aperture (resolution not higher than 3 m), infrared formation devices images (resolution no higher than 50 cm).
All this equipment has been certified by the OSCE military committee. But the Americans for almost a year did not allow our “carcass” to fly in the sky above them, since they did not have such equipment and they were filming with film cameras. The offer of Russian specialists to share our equipment similar to ours caused an attack of gnashing of teeth at the Pentagon. Pride is more than hope. It was always believed that Russians are far from American technologies, but here…
The American establishment was especially shocked in the summer of 2017, when our open skies plane flew over the Atlantic coast of the United States and over Washington itself, the CIA headquarters and Andrews airbase, over Trump’s suburban official residence at Camp David, as well as over his personal residence at Florida. The appearance of the “Russian plane over the White House” shook many Americans. But the fact is that the sky over the capital of the United States under the treaty was at that moment completely open, the leadership of the States was warned about the flight route, there were no objections from it, so Russia did not violate anything.
But the United States w-as extremely unhappy that Russia did not agree with their claims. For example, they demanded that their specialists, together with Georgian officers, be allowed a reconnaissance flight 10 km from the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Despite the fact that Georgia itself prohibited the passage of a Russian plane to open skies over its territory. To the question of how you will fly near the borders of states that you do not recognize and that are not members of the OST, there has never been an intelligible answer. A similar picture emerged with the Kaliningrad region. The number of flights over it, which Washington and Warsaw demanded, apparently in order to see the Iskander-M positions and the missiles loaded in them, exceeded all permissible limits. In addition, such flights would block the normal air traffic of the regional center with other cities in Russia, which is unacceptable.
At the same time, the United States, under various pretexts, obstructed the flight of our open skies aircraft over Hawaii, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, over its military bases in E-urope; the Americans did not allow our crews to rest even at night after strenuous work – they set the fli-ght altitude that was not p-rovided for by the protocol of the agreement… As Rus-sian Deputy Foreign Min-ister Sergei Ryabkov said, they behaved unconstructively. It is sad that this is how the American partners behave not only in the def-unct Open Skies Treaty, but also in any arms control ne-gotiations, including today, trying to gain unilateral advantages for themselves.
What Europe regrets
Of course, the withdrawal of the United States from the Open Skies Treaty, and now finally and irrevocably of Russia, is an unpleasant event. First of all, because it reduces the already, to put it mildly, low level of trust in each other. But, by and large, it does not bear any tangible damage to the security and defense capability of both states. Both countries have satellites for sounding the earth and sea surfaces; optical, infrastructural, radio-technical and other methods of reconnaissance, which are able to compensate them for flights over the territory of another state. Although, of course, two types of control are better and more reliable than one.
The European allies of the United States in NATO are another matter. They have almost no such companions, and the overlord does not like to share the information he has obtained. This is what worries the generals in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London and Warsaw, and in other capitals of the countries that make up the alliance. It’s one thing to get your legal intelligence. Another is to hope for a kind uncle from overseas who wants to share information, does not want to – will not do it. And you won’t have any effect on him.
They could have acted – they would not have allowed the US to withdraw from those treaties and agreements that affect European interests. And so you have to put up with the elephant tread of the American “elder brother” on the world stage. Call on Iran not to enrich natural uranium, realizing that it was the policy of Washington that forced it to do so. Express concern and regret to Moscow over its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, due to the termination of Russia’s participation in the Open Skies Treaty, fly its reconnaissance aircraft near Russian air borders and shamefully flee from “dry” and “blinks” “when they take to the skies to intercept potential violators of our lines…
As they say, what they fought for. Until then, gentlemen, Europeans, you can silently swallow other destructive actions of the American administration. And even applaud them – including their rude interference in the affairs of Ukraine, the supply of weapons for the civil war in Donbass, the likely deployment of US medium-range missiles on its territory… It is clear that in this case you will again express regret to Moscow if it, As promised, in response, it will deploy its missiles aimed at American missile bases in your countries. But you will only have to blame yourself. The loss of sovereignty, direct or indirect, to which you agreed by joining NATO, will make itself felt more than once or twice.

About the author

The Frontier Post