July 18, 2016

Senate bill calls for restrictions on Russian Open Skies Treaty overflights of the US

On July 14th 2016 a Simple Resolution was passed in the Senate. The sponsor of this bill was Tom Cotton, Junior Senator from Arkansas (R). Being a Canadian, the term Simple Resolution was foreign to me, but it doesn't seem to be a law, but more of a finger-wagging statement, which says:
S.Res. 544: A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding compliance enforcement of Russian violations of the Open Skies Treaty.
"... it is the sense of the Senate that— (1) restrictions upon the ability of Open Skies Treaty aircraft to overfly all portions of the territory of a State Party impede openness and transparency of military forces and activities and undermine mutual understanding and confidence, especially when coupled with an ongoing refusal to address compliance concerns raised by other States Party subject to such restrictions; (2) it is essential to the accomplishment of the purpose of the Open Skies Treaty that Open Skies Treaty aircraft be able to observe the entire territory of a State Party in a timely and reciprocal manner as provided for under the Open Skies Treaty; (3) the Russian Federation’s restrictions upon the ability of Open Skies Treaty aircraft to overfly all portions of the territory of the Russian Federation constitute violations of the Open Skies Treaty; and (4) for so long as the Russian Federation remains in noncompliance with the Open Skies Treaty, the United States should take such measures as are necessary to bring about the Russian Federation’s return to full compliance with its treaty obligations, including, as appropriate, through the imposition of restrictions upon Russian overflights of the United States." (ref here and here)
This Bill is a politically motivated punitive measure spurned on by lobbyists for the defence industry, under-informed politicians looking to score points riding the Red Scare wave, political appointees, and the head of the DIA, who I've written about before (cited below). For a host of reasons, like desperate caged animals, the these people have been rabbidly spreading the narrative of a renewed Red Scare of Russia, and trying to convince the American people that Russians are spying over the US with these "treaty overflights". Further, they state these overflights have now become "vital tools" for Russia's intelligence collection, even though the plane's cameras produce 30cm resolution photos, which are similar in resolution to commercial satellite photos.

Opponents of the Open Skies Treaty need Americans to be afraid of the Russians, as they were of the Soviet Union. It seems the only way the American military can get more funding is by having a nefarious super-power to duel with. Repeated statements about Russian "RESTRICTIONS" on overflights of Russia have been parroted by the media, with no fact-checking or elaboration regarding what "restrictions" they are talking about. The impression given is that Russia is *blocking* overflights of large pieces of Russia, hiding invasion forces, and obstructing arms inspections of the country at every turn.

This is somewhere between fantasy, wishful thinking, and an extreme stretch of the facts. Almost none of it is true. Almost. The restrictions put in place by the Russians are mostly in contravention of the agreement as it is written; TRUE. However, the restrictions do not impede the inspection of the entire territory of the Russian Federation, very small portions of Russia have had any restriction at all, and nothing is "hidden" by any of the restrictions.  I've already covered the misinformation these factions are trying to spread here, here and here.

Russia's "Restrictions" imposed on other states' overflights are as follows:

  • Limited distance allowed for flights over Kaliningrad (not unreasonable)
  • Treaty-defined 10km restriction from border with independent states (Breakaway republics of Georgia, dovetails into unrelated border dispute)
  • Restricted airspace over some of Moscow forcing a higher overflight (not outrageous)
  • Restricted airspace over Chechnya forcing a higher overflight (also not surprising)
  • Declaring "Force majeure" on an unknown (2? 3?) overflights since 2011 due to VIP on the ground (certainly poor form)
I really don't see any of these are so bad that you'd want to start contravening an Arms Verification treaty to prove a point.  If the USA is going to arbitrarily impose restrictions on Russian overflights without getting the approval of the OSCC it will be as much in the wrong as Russia is.  If these are such egregious affronts to the treaty, why is no other country crying foul?  There are 32 other Nations, other than the United States and Russia, who have not voiced objections to these issues with the same fervour as the United States.  Why haven't the Americans convened a meeting regarding these issues and come up with a resolution put forth by the rest of the signatory parties to the Treaty?  Why is it the United States is doing these punitive measures alone and without any other country's support?  What measures are they even considering?  Will they be proportional to what Russia is imposing?  Tit-for-tat?

Not a misquote, they are his own written words from his own column here
Let me introduce you to Junior Senator from Arkansas USA Tom Cotton, a Republican; why?  Because I believe he routinely recklessly endangers the world, and is a horrible misogynist, despite graduating from Harvard and being a decorated former Army Captain, and veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

He was also called a "mutinous" by a General over the letter he (and 46 others) sent to Iran which was against the US national interest and the narrative Obama was broadcasting during the nuclear deal negotiations.  You could read this.  He has also been routinely called out for taking money from hard-line Israeli lobbyists and significant donations from defence contractors.  This man is a one man war machine.

War is good for business.

If this man is advocating reprisals against Russia for minor infractions of the Open Skies Treaty, you should be wondering how this benefits the people who fund him; specifically the extremely arms industry and their deep pockets.

Peace isn't good for business.

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