The Open Skies Treaty which allows superpowers Russia and the United States to overfly each other to ensure neither is up to anything suspicious is in danger of collapse.
The post Cold War arm-control treaty allows declared, unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of member nations. Its intention is to demonstrate that none of the 34 nations that are signatory to the agreement are engaged in any secret military build-up or expansion program.
But it seems Russia now regards some of its territory less open than others.
The Wall Street Journal reports the United States will restrict Russian military observation flights over some US territory after Moscow began blocking similar overflights of its increasingly heavily militarised Kaliningrad enclave on Europe’s Baltic coast, Chechnya, South Ossetia and Moscow itself.
Earlier this week, the Chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, told a US Senate Armed Services Committee that Washington wanted the Open Skies Treaty with Russia to remain in place.
He added there was little chance of this happening if Moscow continued flouting the agreement.
Overnight, Russian news agencies reported Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Moscow was also unhappy at US compliance with the treaty – and would take action in response to any new restrictions.
“I have no doubt there will be a (Russian) response,” Ryabkov reportedly said.
“But before announcing something on this, we have to analyse the situation with our military and look at how we’ll respond to the Americans.”
While the Open Skies Treaty allows aircraft to range a total of 5500km over a nation’s air space, Moscow has imposed a new 500km limit for Kaliningrad. It takes a 1200km flight to cover the entirety of the fortress-enclave.