On September 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed that leading space powers agree to prohibit the “stationing” of weapons in space and the “threat or use of force” against space objects.
There's hardly anything new in Putin's pronouncement. As far back as 1985, the USSR called for a ban on “space strike weapons.” Moscow has sounded variations on the same theme, often aided and abetted by China, ever since. Both nations share a common desire to curb the U.S. technological prowess in developing advanced space capabilities, especially those that might be applied to missile defense or anti-satellite operations.
Ironically, both Russia and China are actively developing and testing a variety of technical approaches to threaten U.S. and allied space assets in the event of a crisis or conflict. Twice this year, Russia has tested different systems capable of destroying U.S. satellites.
These developments are worrying. U.S. economic and national security have grown increasingly dependent on the global communications, precision navigation, weather forecasting, and overhead imagery provided by on-orbit systems. It is difficult to imagine, for example, how the U.S. military could operate as effectively as it has over the past two decades without unfettered access to the information derived from and transmitted through space.
America's newest independent military service—the U.S. Space Force—was created in large part to deal with the threats posed by Russia and China to U.S. and allied space capabilities. According to its first statement on doctrine, the primary purpose of military space forces is “to secure U.S. interests through deterrence and, when necessary, the application of force.”
This is familiar language. Deterrence, and the capability to respond with overwhelming force to aggression, have long been central elements of U.S. national security policy, especially in the nuclear domain.
So too has been the pursuit of arms control agreements as a complementary approach to enhancing stability, bolstering deterrence, and avoiding costly arms races. Thus, it is worth asking whether arms control can play a useful role in mitigating potential threats to U.S and allied interests in space. (end of excerpt)
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