By Brett Gillin
Relations between the United States and Russia have come a long way in the last few decades. For example, 30 years ago, news of a Russian spy plane flying over military bases in the United States would have caused countless fighter jets to scramble, nuclear warheads to be put on the ready, and panic would ensue throughout the population. Today, the news that a Russian spy plane will be flying in U.S. skies is met with a helpful hand from the Pentagon.
Thanks to the Open Skies Treaty, which was drafted 22 years ago, the fact that a Russian plane is flying directly over military installations in the U.S. does not raise any red flags. The treaty, which was ratified in 2001, permits each country to conduct inspections of one another’s military bases. The caveat is that each country must announce their intentions before the flight, and both countries are actively involved in the missions. According to this article on Inquisitr, these flights and their exact routes are agreed upon in advance.
Yesterday, the first of two flights took off from Travis Air Force Base, just north of San Francisco. The next flight, which will mark the 38th instance of the Russians exercising their rights under the Open Skies Treaty this year, is set to launch on December 13th from the same base.
On the other side of the world, the United States takes full advantage of the Open Skies Treaty as well. According to Inquisitr, the U.S. has flown 17 missions over Russia already this year. Additionally, the U.S. flew two missions over Ukraine, which is included under the terms of the treaty. These missions may have been the most dangerous that the U.S. flew under the treaty, after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in the same airspace.
“Most of the world has no idea this treaty even exists,” Navy Cmdr. Chris “Half” Nelson, who commands each U.S. spy flight over Russia, told reporters. “Whenever I mention that Russians fly aircraft over the U.S. taking pictures, it blows people’s minds.”
These missions are getting a bit more media attention these days thanks to increased tensions between Russia and the West, but there are no plans, at least publicly acknowledged ones, to revisit the treaty in the future.