Open Skies Are Safer

11 August 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Russian Spy Plane Overflies Pentagon with American Approval

A Russian spy plane flew over the Pentagon on Wednesday, as well as over the Capitol, CIA Headquarters and President Trump's vacation site in Bedminster, New Jersey. It did so with the approval of the American government and an American military officer was on-board the Tupolev 154 as it did so. The flight took place under the 1992 Open Skies Treaty signed by 34 nations including the US and Russian Federation. It's exactly the kind of confidence-building arrangement from which the Korean Peninsula might benefit.

"The treaty 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 State Department. In other words, by letting adversaries see what one is doing, one lessens tensions that might lead to armed conflict.

The State Department website says, "The Treaty on Open Skies establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories. The Treaty 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. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts to date to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities."

The argument against Open Skies is the traditional one; if a potential enemy can locate one's military assets, it can destroy those assets. If the treaty were a one-way street, that argument might hold water. However, if Nation A is plotting an attack on Nation B and uses fly-over rights to spot weaknesses in the latter's defenses, Nation B is also in a position to spot the required build up of assets in Nation A, rendering the surprise attack unsurprising. Moreover, Nation B can determine what defenses Nation A has.

The deal is that the overflying nation gives the overflown state 72 hours notice of the flight. The aircraft may not land except in case of a plane malfunction or if it is specifically permitted. The only reason for denying permission for the flight is weather that makes flight unsafe.

A Pentagon official told TheHill.com "They usually come in and they list out what locations they want to fly over. We put together the flight plan and with a few exceptions -- safety-wise or weather-wise -- they are allowed to fly over pretty much the entire territory. It is very controlled and very proscribed . . . [including] when they are allowed to take sensor readings." If it sounds routine, it is. The Russian Air Force has utilized the Open Skies Treaty 10 times so far this year to fly over the US.

The main problem with the Korean situation is that the North and South, as well as their allies, must rely on more covert espionage, which inherently raises suspicions because it is unidirectional. There are far too many unknowns for either side to be confident of its security.

That is not to say that inspections on either side of the 38th parallel would diffuse the situation. Such arrangements are probably more useful after the current sabre-rattling stops. Party A will do this, Party B will do that, and once the deal has been implemented, discussions of inspections might help. First, however, the nations involved need to get to a deal to turn the heat down.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.



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