US, Estonia, Lithuania observe Russian, Belarusian military sites under Open Skies Treaty

  • 2020-02-26
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Observers from the United States, Estonia and Lithuania observed the military infrastructure of Russia and Belarus under the Open Skies Treaty on Feb. 19 and 20. 

The leading country of the observation flight was the United States, while the team also included members of the military from Estonia and Lithuania, military spokespeople in Tallinn said on Wednesday.

The purpose of the observation flight was to record developments concerning military installations in the Western Military District of Russia and in Belarus.

On Feb. 19, an observation flight along the route Kubinka-Belarus-Kaliningrad, as well as a separate flight above Kaliningrad took place. The flight along the route Kaliningrad-St. Petersburg-Kubinka planned for Feb. 20 was affected by weather conditions. 

"Flights under the Open Skies Treaty are a substantial part of the arms control related activities of Estonia. They give us a better possibility to observe developments in the eastern neighbor's military infrastructure. Weather conditions may prove a limiting factor, which had to be acknowledged in the case of said flight," said Lt. Col. Peeter Koiv, senior staff officer at the headquarters of the Estonian defense forces.

Koiv said that in addition to recording developments related to military facilities, the observation flights allow the Estonian defense forces to develop cooperation with our important allies and partners. 

The Treaty on Open Skies is part of security and confidence building measures among member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the narrower purpose of which is to gather and make available information about military forces and activities. It was signed in Helsinki in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. To date 33 OSCE member states  including all member states of NATO have acceded to the treaty.

The treaty establishes the Open Skies regime for the conduct of short-notice, unarmed, observation flights by states parties over the territories of other states parties. The treaty gives each state party the right to conduct and the obligation to accept observation flights over their territory

Estonia joined the treaty in 2005, undertaking to receive up to four observation flights annually

The observation flights above Russia and Belarus were conducted with an internationally certified Saab 340B twin-engine turboprop from Sweden equipped with a vertical optical panoramic camera.