BUREAU OF VERIFICATION, COMPLIANCE, AND IMPLEMENTATION
May 18, 2009
U.S. Department Of State
Origin and Purpose
The Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 States Parties. The Treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation 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 to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.
The original concept of mutual aerial observation was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955; the Treaty itself was an initiative of then-President George H.W. Bush in 1989. The Treaty was negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992. Provisional application of portions of the Treaty took place from signature in 1992 until entry into force in 2002. During that period, participants conducted joint trial flights for the purpose of training mission crews and testing equipment and sensors. With entry into force of the Treaty, formal observation flights began in August 2002. States Parties have conducted over 530 observation flights over each other’s territory.
Since the signature of the Open Skies Treaty in 1992, the security environment in Europe has changed significantly. The Open Skies Treaty continues to contribute toward European security by enhancing openness and transparency among the Parties.
The 34 States Parties to the Open Skies Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, and United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not yet ratified. The Treaty depositaries are Canada and Hungary.
The Treaty is of unlimited duration and open to accession by other States. States of the former Soviet Union which have not already become States Parties to the Treaty may accede to it at any time. Applications from other interested States are subject to a consensus decision by the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), the Vienna-based organization charged with facilitating implementation of the Treaty, to which all States Parties belong. Eight states have acceded to the Treaty since entry into force: Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, and Lithuania. One application for accession is pending before the OSCC.
Basic Elements of the Treaty
Territory. The Open Skies regime covers the territory over which the State Party exercises sovereignty, including – land, islands, and internal and territorial waters. The Treaty specifies that the entire territory of a State Party is open to observation. Observation flights may only be restricted for reasons of flight safety; not for reasons of national security.
Aircraft. Observation aircraft may be provided by either the observing Party or by the observed Party (the “taxi option”), at the latter’s choice. All Open Skies aircraft and sensors must pass specific certification and pre-flight inspection procedures to ensure that they are compliant with Treaty standards. Certified Open Skies aircraft include:
POD Group C-130H & J (Benelux, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain)
Russian Federation An-30 and TU-154
Turkey Casa CN-235
United States OC-135B
Sensors. Open Skies aircraft may have video, optical panoramic and framing cameras for daylight photography, infra-red line scanners for a day/night capability, and synthetic aperture radar for a day/night all weather capability. Photographic image quality will permit recognition of major military equipment (e.g., permit a State Party to distinguish between a tank and a truck), thus allowing significant transparency of military forces and activities. Sensor categories may be added and capabilities improved by agreement among States Parties. All equipment used in Open Skies must be commercially available to all participants in the regime.
Quotas. Each State Party is obligated to receive observation flights per its passive quota allocation. Each State Party may conduct as many observation flights – its active quota – as its passive quota. The Russian Federation and the United States each have an annual passive quota of 42, and other States Parties have a quota of 12 or fewer. The Parties negotiate the annual distribution of the active quotas each October for the following calendar year. Over 100 observation flights are conducted each year.
Data Sharing/Availability. Imagery collected from Open Skies missions is available to any State Party upon request for the cost of reproduction. As a result, the data available to each State Party is much greater than that which it can collect itself under the Treaty quota system.
Implementation of the Treaty
In July 2008, under U.S. OSCC Chairmanship, States Parties commemorated the conduct of 500 observation flights since the Treaty entered into force.
The OSCC continues to address modalities for conducting observation missions and other implementation issues. The OSCC meets in three sessions per year, with monthly plenary meetings. The OSCC has several informal working groups that take up technical issues related to sensors, notification formats, aircraft certification and rules and procedures. The OSCC main functions are to:
consider questions relating to compliance with the Treaty;
seek to resolve ambiguities and differences of interpretation emerging during Treaty implementation;
consider and decide on applications for accession to the Treaty; and
review the distribution of active quotas annually.
The OSCC was established by Article X and Annex L of the Treaty, and has been in session since Treaty signature in March 1992. The OSCC takes decisions by consensus, and has adopted over 90 Decisions since its inception. OSCC Decisions enter into force with the Treaty and have the same duration as the Treaty.
State Department point of contact is Diana Marvin, 202-647-5357.
Note: This Treaty is not related to civil-aviation open skies agreements.
Why Russia Was Allowed to Fly a Surveillance Plane Over the Capitol and Pentagon.
BY ARIC JENKINS
AUGUST 11, 2017
With heightening concerns over conflict with North Korea and lingering allegations of Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election, you might think that the last thing Russia would do right now is fly a surveillance plane over Washington, D.C. But that’s exactly what it did Wednesday — and with clearance from the U.S. government.
The low-altitude aircraft flew over the Capitol building and the Pentagon with U.S. approval thanks to a long-standing global agreement called the Treaty on Open Skies, according to the Associated Press. The pact, which was signed and ratified by 34 nations including the U.S. and Russia in 1992, allows member countries to send unarmed observation flights over the territories of fellow members. It’s designed to promote transparency about military activity and hold participants accountable for diplomatic agreements.
But how did such a treaty come to exist in the first place?
Open Skies dates back to the beginnings of the Cold War, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the initiative between the U.S. and Soviet Union at the Geneva Conference in 1955.
The idea was similar: exchange maps revealing the location of every military installation in the respective countries, in turn allowing them to conduct aerial surveillance on each other in order to guarantee the fulfillment of established arms agreements. But while France and Britain (the other attendees of the summit as part of the “Big Four” nations) were open to the deal, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev rejected the treaty, labeling it as an “espionage plot.” The proposal sat dormant for years. All the while, tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union further escalated.
It wasn’t until 1989 that the concept of Open Skies was reintroduced by President George H.W. Bush as a means to build trust between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Warsaw Pact countries. The latter alliance — formed in 1955 between the Soviet Union and its eastern European satellites — ended up collapsing as the socialist state dissolved by 1991. Despite this period of geopolitical change, Bush was able to successfully negotiate the terms of the Open Skies treaty with the majority of the Warsaw Pact countries. On March 24, 1992, the treaty was signed in Helsinki, Finland.
Open Skies officially went into effect on Jan. 1, 2002. Since then, there have been more than 1,200 surveillance flights conducted by the member nations. But given recent foreign relations between the U.S. and Russia, among other countries, will the Open Skies treaty continue in this current political comment?
“The Obama administration carefully assessed the risks and benefits of remaining in the treaty and judged with our European allies that it was in our best interests to stay,” said Lynn Rusten, a senior consultant at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
She added that the primary concern of Open Skies was the advancement of surveillance technology from film to digital cameras that are able to produce clearer images. But she said the U.S. permitted the upgrades because it felt it was worth the risk.
“It’s critical to maintain any mechanism to retain that confidence,” Rusten said. “It would do more harm than good to walk away from this treaty.”
But Stephen Sestanovich, a professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University and fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, cast doubt over the treaty’s future.
“The Russians have been so ready to roll back or disregard norms and treaties that they’ve got people in Congress, in the military, in the intelligence world asking, ‘Why pretend to trust each other?’” he said. “In that atmosphere, virtually any agreement can be challenged.
Russian FURY After Donald Trump Ends US Surveillance Treaty Sparking ‘ARMS RACE’ Fears.
PRESIDENT Trump has blocked funding for an international surveillance treaty designed to allow countries to monitor each other’s military strength, infuriating Russia and raising fears of a new arms race.
By JAMES BICKERTON
PUBLISHED: 02:40, Wed, Aug 15, 2018 | UPDATED: 10:40, Wed, Aug 15, 2018
The measure was included in a $717 billion defence policy bill which Trump signed on Monday.
It ended US funding for the Treaty of Open Skies, an agreement between 34 states which will allow them to fly unarmed observation aircraft over each others territories.
The intention of the programme, which the UK has signed up to, is to allow countries to monitor each others militaries to deter secret buildups.
Senior Russian figures responded furiously to Trump’s decision.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Moscow Times: “This is an attempt to hide everything the Americans will be preparing in the course of a new arms race.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov told a state news agency his government regrets the US decision.
The US had already accused Russia of violating the treaty by limiting surveillance flights over Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania.
There have been numerous reports of a Russian military buildup in Kaliningrad, with some satellite images suggesting the development of nuclear facilities.
Surveillance fights by unarmed aircraft are currently routine between the US, Russia and other signatories of the treaty.
The Pentagon estimates the Russians have carried out over 165 missions over the US since the agreement came into effect.
A Pentagon source told Politico: “We put together the flight plan and with a few exceptions…they are allowed to fly over pretty much the entire territory.”
In August 2017 there was controversy over a Russian reconnaissance flight which travelled over Washington D.C. and a US airforce base in Ohio.
The US State Department had previously described Open Skies as: “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.”
Tensions between Russia and the US increased last week after the Americans put new tariffs on Russia over its alleged involvement in poisoning Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter in the UK earlier this year.
The new US sanctions restrain the export of so-called dual use technologies, which could have a military or civilian application.
Unless Russia takes certain actions, a second round of sanctions, tougher than the first, is expected to follow.