- NATO, in response to pressure from the United States, is expected to announce space as a “warfighting domain.”
- It’s unclear how NATO will treat this. It could militarize space.
- Regardless of whether it militarizes it now, eventually space will become a potential battlefield.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is expected to announce it considers space a “warfighting domain.” at summit in December. The landmark announcement would cement the notion that, like the air, land, and sea domains, space is a potential battlefield whose control is vital in a future conflict. It’s a serious blow to advocates for the peaceful use of space and a ban on space-based weapons.
An article at Phys.org discusses the implications of this agreement, news of which was broken this summer by Reuters. According to Reuters, NATO will announce in an alliance summit on December 3-4 it believes “battles can be waged not only on land, in the air, at sea and on computer networks, but also in space.”
The announcement is largely along the lines of current U.S. and French government thinking. France in particular has been loud in accusing Russia of using its satellites for space-based espionage. In July, France announced it will develop anti-satellite lasers to protect its satellite fleet. Earlier this month, the head of the newly established U.S. Space Command (a separate entity from the Space Force) warned that China would likely attempt to blind satellites in wartime.
According to Phys.org, the U.S. and the rest of NATO could launch and control satellites equipped with electronic jamming equipment or even microwave weapons to disrupt or destroy enemy satellites. Other satellites could attack with more direct means, including kinetic kill vehicles designed to steer themselves into the path of enemy satellites, colliding with and destroying them. Lasers could blind the optics of enemy satellites or disable critical equipment such as solar panels.
One bright spot in this news: the world, as the article points out, has already banned nuclear weapons in space. The Outer Space Treaty banned the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, with the U.S., NATO, Russia, and China all signatories to the agreement. For now the OST is holding the line, though any country can break a treaty if it decides it is in its national interests to do so.
The NATO agreement is unfortunate but not entirely unexpected. Over the course of human history, war has spread from land to sea, and in the 20th century spread to the air. It is inevitable that warfare will spread to any domain nations hold security interests. Already many countries are militarily and economically dependent on space, and their adversaries can use this as a lever against them.
At this point it seems that the only way to prevent a war in space is a policy of deterrence, in which an adversary is dissuaded from attacking U.S. or NATO space assets for fear of a counterstrike that cripples its own space assets.
You Might Also Like