Seeing a Russian spy plane fly unperturbed over major American military bases seems like the kind of thing that would cause a lot of concern. However, while unnerving this kind of practice is actually completely legal.
Reports started coming in after a Russian surveillance jet was discovered on the Travis Air Force Base close to Fairfield, California. Since then it has been seen flying over sensitive military installations where the airspace is denied even to U.S. commercial jets.
So the big question is, why?
The answer lies with in a 1992 pact made between the United States and the Russian Federation. The Treaty on Open Skies dictates that unarmed military planes from either country are allowed to fly over the territories of the other.
This is meant to allow both countries to monitor each others military bases. This agreement in transparency is also shared by 32 other nations.
This is the first reconnaissance mission that Russia has performed this year, while the U.S. has made three such missions in Russia.
In order for these mission to proceed a submission of the flight itinerary must be made to the host country, however objections can only be made on the grounds of safety of logistical reasons.
Readers may also be comforted by the fact that the U.S. Air Force inspected the plane before it was allowed to leave Travis. U.S. observers were also passengers on the plane and monitored all phases during the flight.