House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R–MI) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reject a request by Russian President Vladimir Putin to upgrade Russia’s technical capability for observational flights of U.S. and NATO countries by airplane.
Signed in 1992 by 34 counties, the Open Skies Treaty allows “unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants” in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements. In its original state, Open Skies included restrictions on the types of sensors permitted as well as a quota on the number of observational flights. After a review of the treaty in 2010, all signatories reaffirmed their commitment to it. However, Russia currently seeks to enhance the reconnaissance capabilities of its observation aircraft.
President Obama should listen to his intelligence and defense officials, who advise against such a concession.
While verification is an essential aspect of any arms treaty, Russian initiative on this issue is highly suspect. First of all, the United States has a stellar record regarding arms treaty compliances. Evidently, the Russians want to gain a better insight into our capabilities, and it would be folly to comply. A review of Russia’s own compliance with various arms treaties with the U.S. reveals a startling amount of violations. If anyone should be asking for an increase of verification measures, it should be the White House.
Notably, Russia has openly violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Regardless of the verification system set up in the INF treaty, Russia has found means to manufacture prohibited weapons.
As recent actions in Ukraine reveal, Russia has by no means become a compliant or responsible international partner.
The United States should not submit to additional Russian oversight. Moscow’s actions have not warranted such a privilege.