U.S. to Pose Restrictions on Russian Military Flights Over its Territory

Washington is set to announce restrictions on Russian military flights over U.S. soil which is regulated by the Treaty on Open Skies in what appears to be the latest strain of relations between the U.S. and Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Treaty on Open Skies is an agreement that dates back to the Cold War and establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Tensions have escalated in August, when a Russian aircraft flew over U.S. cities including Washington and Bedminster, N.J., while President Donald Trump was staying at the Trump National Golf Club in the town.

However, according to U.S. officials, the flights, aren’t the cause of the new restrictions. Instead, they ensure that Russia violates the treaty because the Kremlin issued flight restrictions over Kaliningrad, Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave, which U.S. officials believe is host to a cache of sophisticated weaponry.

According to the treaty, a range of 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles) is allowed per flight, but Russia has imposed a “sub-limit” of 500 kilometers for flights over Kaliningrad. Since it requires roughly 1,200 kilometers to cover the entirety of Kaliningrad during an Open Skies flight, according to Pentagon officials, this restriction forces treaty members to reallocate two flights that would otherwise be used to observe other portions of Russia.

This limitation enforces gaps between the flights needed to cross Kaliningrad that make an incoherent picture of the territory U.S. officials maintain.

U.S. officials have suspicions of what the Russian military in Kaliningrad might be doing between Open Skies flights, stressing the importance of knowing Russian military capabilities at their westernmost expansion.

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