Russia's request of the Vienna-based Open Skies Consultative Commission comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two former Cold War rivals. "The treaty has become a critical component of Russia's intelligence collection capability directed at the United States," Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, told the AP. "In addition to overflying military installations, Russian Open Skies flights can overfly and collect on Department of Defense and national security or national critical infrastructure." The Russians could easily exploit the data gathered from these flights, Haney argued.
What's more, Russia has recently declined to make all of its territory available for the same purpose. Moscow, Chechnya and the areas around Abkhazia and South Ossetia are all apparently off-limits despite the rules of the treaty.
On the other hand, we'll know exactly what the Russians are taking pictures of because the treaty stipulates that all images captured must be shared among the 34 member nations. Either way, the flights wouldn't be conducted until this summer, at the earliest, owing to the treaty's 120-day lead time.