Everyone knows that the air, land and sea have long been zones of conflict, clashes and combat. There is a growing perception that next up is the ocean of space, transformed into an arena for warfare. There is ongoing chatter regarding military use of space by various nations, among which the US news outlet Space names above all the United States, noting that the freshly established US Space Force “is busily shaping how best to protect US and allied interests in the increasingly contested and congested space domain.” Such forms of malicious interference could potentially lead to a threat of escalation as they become more widely and frequently used and rivals develop retaliatory capabilities, the publication notes. So really, the path to war in space is a space arms race, one that has long been postponed but that is only made more imminent and potentially explosive as technology advances in the absence of binding commitments to space arms control. Therefore, we must rely on the UN Outer Space Treaty with a supplementary agreement prohibiting all forms of malicious intervention and the weapons with which this intervention is carried out.
The Biden administration has issued a budget proposal for 2022 that intends to allocate more than $1.2 billion for military space forces in low-Earth orbit, which could negatively impact engagement with other countries. According to the Pentagon, they intend to allocate $936 million for the SDA, about $600 million more than in 2021. This amount includes 809 million for research, development, testing and evaluation, 54 million for operations and maintenance, and 74 million for procurement. The planned funding has historical overtones, as this is the first time it has received a separate funding line.
Gen. John Raymond, the first chief of space operations of the US Space Force, says space is a war-fighting domain. In a burst of the usual Russophobic rhetoric of the recent period, the US intelligence report claims that Russia remains “the main rival of the United States in the realm of space”.
At the same time, according to estimates of Russian experts of “Almaz – Antey” Air and Space Defence Corporation”, Joint Stock Company, the American X-37 spacecraft can carry up to six nuclear warheads and by 2025 the US will have deployed eight such platforms, which is a serious challenge to unleashing a war in space. Now one of them has been in orbit for a year, and two have been in orbit for two years. Although the United States officially states that these vehicles are designed for scientific and reconnaissance purposes, it is nevertheless clear to everyone that, with such spare capacity and capability, such a vehicle could carry from three nuclear warheads to six warheads. It is worth noting in this regard that the US is planning to put two more such satellites into orbit by 2025, increasing their total number to eight. This is certainly a real challenge to the world.
US NATO allies are becoming increasingly involved in the militarization of space. For example, a new unit of the British Armed Forces may soon send Royal Air Force fighter jets to the “edge of space” to rehearse destroying enemy satellites, the Daily Express was told by senior sources in the country’s Ministry of Defense. The plans are revealed just two weeks after Air Commodore Paul Godfrey – a seasoned Typhoon pilot – was appointed as the first head of UK Space Command. The UK still lacks anti-satellite missiles in its arsenal, yet the US has been using the technology since the 1980s, when one was launched from a fighter jet at an old meteorological satellite.
Recently, several countries have been active in order to set up their stations on the moon, and in the future they may have a conflict on this issue, writes Fredzone. The point is that you need water and sunlight to build infrastructure, and there aren’t many places on the Moon that have these resources. To avoid any conflicts over the Moon, an agreement was made back in 1967 stating that the exploration and use of space outside the Earth’s atmosphere should take place in the interests and for the benefit of every nation. However, there are legal gaps as to what countries and companies can do on the Moon. Other agreements that were offered by some countries were not beneficial to other countries, and therefore, were not signed.
Plans for the militarization of space were confirmed in February by the US Defense Department, saying that in the future it could protect NASA bases on the moon, “to strengthen its position in space”, which could become “an arena of hostilities,” the media reported. As indicated by the Wall Street Journal, citing informed sources from the US government and the space industry, over time, “civil-military cooperation is expected to extend to defending planned NASA bases on the lunar surface, as well as protecting U.S. commercial operations.” These plans for the militarization of space are actively covered up in the US to counter the “challenges posed to the United States by Russia and China”.
NATO countries are planning to extend Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, relating to the principle of collective self-defense, to outer space, said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview with Der Spiegel, which further increases the risk of militarization of space.
Under these circumstances, Moscow proposes to introduce an international ban on the placement of weapons in space, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, addressing the participants of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament on February 24. He proposed to use space “for creative purposes, for the benefit of all mankind” only if “an arms race is prevented,” and to begin negotiations to create “an international legally binding instrument prohibiting the deployment of any weapons there, and the use or threat of force”. The “corresponding Russian-Chinese draft treaty submitted to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 2014″ is proposed as the basis for this instrument”. Nearly thirty countries have already become full participants in the initiative. However, Washington and Brussels have not yet provided a clear answer to Moscow’s proposal!
As for the US concerns recently promoted in the US media about high Russian activity in space, they are clearly unfounded. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, stressed that Russia is a peaceful country and has never conducted offensive military operations against anyone in its history, using its military shield only for defense and protection of the country. However, as Peskov said, there is a feeling that “the very existence of Russia is a cause of concern for some American generals”. “This is an utterly baseless fear; Russia is in favor of cooperation. We value Russian-American cooperation in space. We hope that it will continue and not fall victim to various Russophobic manifestations.”
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.