Militarization Of Space: Threat Of Nuclear War On Earth by Rick Rozoff

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by Rick Rozoff
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
June 18, 2009

On June 17, immediately after the historical ninth heads of state summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Yekaterinburg, Russia on the preceding two days, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that their nations were drafting a joint treaty to ban the deployment of weapons in outer space to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly.

A statement by the presidents reflected a common purpose to avoid the militarization of space and said:

“Russia and China advocate peaceful uses of outer space and oppose the prospect of it being turned into a new area for deploying weapons.

“The sides will actively facilitate practical work on a draft treaty on  the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space, and of the use of force or threats to use force against space facilities, and will continue an intensive coordination of efforts to guarantee the security of activities in outer space.” [1]

The statement also addressed the question of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its global expansion as well as an integrally related danger, the US-led drive to development a worldwide – and more than worldwide – interceptor missile system aimed at neutralizing China’s and Russia’s deterrent and retaliation capacities in the event of a first strike attack on either or both.

The section of the joint communique addressing the above stated, “Russia and China regard international security as integral and comprehensive. The security of some states cannot be ensured at the expense of others, including the expansion of military-political alliances or the creation of global or regional missile defense systems.” [2]

The two leaders’ comments assumed greater gravity and legitimacy as Medvedev and Hu had both just attended the two-day SCO summit which included heads of states and other representatives of the SCO’s six full members [China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), its four observer states (India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, with the heads of state of all but Mongolia participating, the first time for an Indian prime minister), the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and attendees from Belarus and Sri Lanka, the latter also for the first time at an SCO summit.

The statement by the Russian and Chinese presidents also came the day after the first-ever heads of state summit of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations in the same Russian city.

To confirm the seriousness and urgency of Hu’s and Medvedev’s concerns over the expansion of the arms race and potential armed conflict into space, on the same day as their statement was released Russian Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Popovkin addressed a press conference in Moscow and issued comments that were summarized by the local media as “Russia warns that technology failure with weapons in space may accidentally invite a massive response amounting to nuclear war.”

He warned that his nation’s “response to American weapons in orbit would be asymmetric but adequate.” [3]

Popovkin’s comments were revealing in a number of ways, reflecting as they did on the manner in which the United States twenty years ago became the sole world superpower it has been until recently:

“There is a more adequate answer to the possible deployment by the USA of
weapons in outer space; we do not have to deploy in space expensive armaments for it.

“To have weapons of your own for waging space wars, you have to understand first why you need them there. We’ve already passed the ‘Star Wars’ epic, and know well how it ended – in the breakup of the Soviet Union.

“Russia has a more adequate answer to the possible deployment by the USA of weapons in space, but we have no need to deploy in space expensive armaments for it; the answer will be absolutely asymmetric.” [4]

A week earlier Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, said that a “new strategic arms reduction pact with the United States must prohibit any kinds of offensive weapons in space,” and expounded on his nation’s concerns by adding:

“Our country is interested in including limitations not only on the number of nuclear warheads, but also on the number of their delivery vehicles in the new arms reduction treaty. We also stand for maintaining the ban on the deployment of strategic weapons, offensive and defensive, outside national borders, the prohibition of any kinds of offensive weapons in space, and a more efficient use of inspection and data exchange mechanisms established in line with the START 1 treaty.” [5]

Contrariwise, the very same day two US congressmen, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), introduced a NATO First Act in the Congress that calls for among other demands that a proposed arms reduction treaty with Russia “not reduce or limit U.S. ballistic missile defenses, space, or advanced conventional weapons capabilities.” [6]

Six days before that Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in speaking about the Pentagon’s Prompt Global Strike program, said that he “continues to press for development of a new weapon that would allow Washington to take out a fleeting target in a manner of minutes.

“The Marine Corps general said he has concluded conventionally armed bombers are ‘too slow and too intrusive’ for many ‘global strike missions.’

“Cartwright for several years has advocated for a ‘prompt global strike’ weapon….”

Asserting (or advocating) that “Over the next few years, the U.S. military is likely to become engaged in a number of hot and cold conflicts, each spanning five to 10 years,” Cartwright said that “The military might need a ‘hypersonic’ weapon that would travel in the exoatmosphere to take out a limited number of fleeting targets….” [7]

For exoatmospheric read space.

Earlier in the year, on March 31, 2009 to be exact, top American military officials attended the 25th National Space Symposium at the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama, the same state that hosts the US Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville.

With the head of the American military, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, present, “A new Special Area of Emphasis topic titled Space as a Contested Environment, was introduced by U.S. military officials….”

The Air University’s National Space Studies Center’s Col. Sean D. McClung underscored the main theme of the meeting in stating “[A]bove all other communities, the military needs to understand implications of space as a contested environment and how to protect America’s interests.” [8]

Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the commander of the Air Force Space Command, was quoted in an Air Force report entitled “Spherical battlespace is new theater of operation” as saying:

“I think for far too long we have looked at our conception of future battlespace by standing on the ground and looking up – I think that might be the wrong way to look.”

The report also says that for the Special Area of Emphasis, Space as a Contested Environment concept although “the connection between space and cyberspace may be unclear to many outside of these career fields, to those within the space community, the connection is clear,” and “The realization that space and cyberspace are inextricably linked is evidenced by the planned creation of a cyber-focused numbered air force under Air Force Space Command.” [9]

To make clear what the Pentagon means and what it intends, earlier this May the head of the US Strategic Command, Gen. Kevin Chilton, “insisted that all strike options, including nuclear, would remain available to the commander in chief in defending the nation from cyber strikes” and “said he could not rule out the possibility of a military salvo against a nation like China, even though Beijing has nuclear arms.” [10]

For the past two years numerous US and NATO officials have conjured up the threat of employing NATO’s Article 5 mutual military assistance – that is, war – clause against alleged cyber attacks of the sort experienced in Estonia in the spring of 2007. The unnamed but unquestioned target of such an action is Russia.

That nation released its new National Security Strategy in the middle of last month in which “it warned that missile defense plans and prospects to develop space-based weapons remain a top threat to Russia’s security.” [11]

A month before Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, deputy head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s chief department for international military cooperation, said that “The United States has already launched the process of militarization of outer space.”

Referring to the Bush administration’s U.S. National Space Policy of August 31, 2006, a follow up to that of Clinton’s 1996 version, Buzhinsky said, “The new doctrine adds a tougher and more unilateral nature to these actions.

“Russian military experts see in this doctrine a disguised bid by the US for the weaponization of outer space. Anti-satellite weapons make an integral part of the U.S. missile defence system.” [12]

The U.S. National Space Policy of 2006 states that “In this new century, those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not. Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power. In order to increase knowledge, discovery, economic prosperity, and to enhance the national security, the United States must have robust, effective, and efficient space capabilities.”

It further identifies goals of the policy to include the intention to:

>Strengthen the nation’s space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives

>Enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there

>Develop and deploy space capabilities that sustain U.S. advantage and support defense and intelligence transformation

>Provide, as launch agent for both the defense and intelligence sectors, reliable, affordable, and timely space access for national security purposes

>Support military planning and satisfy operational requirements as a major intelligence mission [13]

The same Russian general quoted above cited as an example of Washington’s space war plans the Pentagon’s downing of an American spy satellite in February of 2008, allegedly because it had become disabled. General Buzhinsky said, “Despite the statements of some U.S. officials that the satellite’s destruction had to be performed once only to minimize risks for life and the health of people, many analysts are of another opinion. They believe that the U.S. tested a new type of weapons capable of destroying spacecraft.” [14]

A year later, February of 2009, an American and Russian satellite were reported to have collided over northeastern Russia. Shortly afterward retired Russian general and former head of the nation’s military space intelligence Leonid Shershnev asserted that the collision “may have been a test of new U.S. technology to intercept and destroy satellites rather than an accident.”

Shershnev’s contentions were characterized in a Russian media report of early March as suggesting “the U.S. satellite involved in the collision was used by the U.S. military as part of the ‘dual-purpose’ Orbital Express research project, which began in 2007.

“Orbital Express was a space mission managed by the United States Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and a team led by engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

“The February collision could be an indication that the U.S. has successfully developed such technology and is capable of manipulating ‘hostile satellites,’ including their destruction, with a single command from a ground control center.” [15]

An Associated Press report published shortly after the above said that:

“The Kremlin has criticized U.S. plans for space-based weapons, saying they could trigger a new arms race. Russia and China have pushed for an international agreement banning space weapons, but their proposals have been rejected by the United States.

“As part of missile defense plans developed by the previous U.S. administration, the Pentagon worked on missiles, ground lasers and other technology to shoot down satellites.” [16]

Two days later Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke at a disarmament conference in Geneva, Switzerland and warned that “an arms race in outer space is inadmissible,” adding that “Prevention of an arms race in space will contribute to ensuring the predictability of the strategic situation” and “We plan, jointly with China, to submit to your consideration soon a document generalizing the results of discussions that have taken place at the conference.” [17]

Lavrov had made a similar appeal at the annual Munich Security Conference in February when in addition to first voicing Russia’s call for a banning of all nuclear weapons being stationed outside the borders of their owners he said that a new START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] accord also “must ban the militarization of space.” [18]

Global, Orbital First Strike Potential: NATO And Asian NATO Partners

NATO’s unswerving fidelity to Pentagon initiatives and diktat doesn’t require substantiation, but if it did this statement by its Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on March 11 would further underscore the fact: “Given the vital role that space and satellites now play within our cyber networks, should we not also start to follow activities in space more closely and consider the implications for our security?” [19]

Plans for the expansion of military hardware, both surveillance and kinetic weapons (missiles), into outer space are not distinct from but inextricably connected with parallel American and NATO global interceptor missile systems. So-called missile shield facilities already in place or in the process of being stationed in Poland, the Czech Republic, Norway and Britain and their counterparts in Alaska, Japan, Australia and South Korea in the east are to be integrated with space components so that both NATO and what has come to be called Asian NATO will provide radar and ground-based interceptor missile sites, as will Azerbaijan and Georgia in the South Caucasus and Israel in the Middle East in the future.

Many of the above-named nations also possess and will base sea-launched missile killing interceptors on Aegis class destroyers and can host new generation US stealth warplanes designed to penetrate deep into the interior of nations like China and Russia to destroy strategic targets, including silo-based long-range missiles and mobile missile launchers.

This past April Japan announced that its “first strategic space policy will focus on improving missile launch detection abilities” after the passage and implementation of a Basic Space Law last August and that “As many as 34 satellites – twice the current number – will be launched between fiscal 2009 and 2013….” [20]

Last month Australia revealed that not only was it planning to build and launch its own space satellites but that it also “wants to create a new cadre of military space experts inside the Australian Defence Forces,” citing Japan as “a good example of the learning process that a new 21st century military space power has to go through.” [21]

Recently the Pentagon has also activated new equipment to facilitate the interaction between spaced-based surveillance and earth-based interceptor missile systems.

In April the US Defense Department launched a new-generation military satellite, the Wideband Global Satellite Communication satellite, into space.

A US military website said of the new acquisition that “These satellites are designed to provide high-capacity communications to U.S. military forces. It will augment and eventually replace the Defense Satellite Communication System.” [22]

The missile used to launch the satellite into orbit, an Atlas V rocket, is described in the same report: “The Atlas V family of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles has achieved 100 percent mission success in launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.” [23]

The increasingly integrated – to the point of inseparability – work of the Defense Department in general, the US Missile Defense Agency and NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] demonstrates the emphasis that Washington places on the militarization of space and the potential use of it for warfighting purposes.

Eighteen days before Barack Obama was inaugurated the 44th president of the United States the Bloomberg news agency reported that the incoming chief executive would “tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs” and that “Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration….” [24]

As further confirmation of this obscuring of the distinction between civilian and military uses of space, in May it was reported that “A Delta II rocket managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA., Tuesday with a spacecraft for the United States Missile Defense Agency.

“The spacecraft is called the Space Tracking and Surveillance System Advanced Technology Risk Reduction mission, or STSS-ATRR.” [25]

The Vandenberg Air Force Base is routinely employed for long-range interceptor missile tests in the Pacific Ocean in coordination with a 28-story sea-based X-Band radar periodically stationed in the Aleutian Islands near the coast of Russia.

The Space Tracking and Surveillance System spacecraft is part of a Ballistic Missile Defense System space sensor layer which “provide[s] combatant commanders with the ability to continuously track strategic and tactical ballistic missiles from launch through termination.” [26]

Weeks earlier the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, also in Huntsville, Alabama, received flight-ready nanosatellites from Ducommun Incorporated, which event marked “the completion of the first U.S. Army satellite development program since the Courier 1B communications satellite in 1960.” [27]

Space War: United States Against The World

In December of 2001 the George W. Bush administration announced that it would withdraw the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, with Bush stating, “we no longer live in the Cold War world for which the ABM Treaty was designed.”

Six months later it formally did so and at the same time “the Pentagon [was] set to break ground…at Fort Greely, Alaska, on the previously prohibited construction of six underground silos for missile interceptors.” [28]

An Indian analyst said that “The U.S. withdrawal in 2001 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty has raised concerns, especially among the Russians and the Chinese, about its intentions in space.

“Ballistic missile defence systems, whether ground-based, airborne or space-based, can also potentially target satellites.

“[T]he U.S. abrogated the ABM Treaty and there was a lot of emphasis on space control, on limiting [space] access to others, which were totally in contravention of the spirit of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.” [29]

The same pattern of arbitrariness and recklessness has been pursued by Washington in relation to the weaponization of space.

Russia and China have for years introduced resolutions in the United Nations calling for the prohibition of weapons in space and against the use of space for military purposes. The US has just as consistently opposed their efforts.

Last September Russia renewed its call to preserve outer space as a zone of peace. After a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov urged European nations to join efforts to avoid an extraterrestrial arms race, saying,  “It is high time to discuss the problem, and it is crucial that countries with the ability to contribute to its solution take part in the negotiations, especially European nations.”

The report from which the above emanated offered this perspective: “Along with the US missile shield program and the idea of a blitzkrieg, an outer space arms race is among the major destabilizing factors for global security.” [30]

A Russian analytical news site reported at the same time that the danger of space war was potentially catastrophic and was being pursued without regard to its consequences:

“[T]he true reason behind the American plans for global anti-ballistic missile defense and space militarization [is that the] United States believes that over the next two to three decades, it can beat the others (Russia and China) in these spheres and gain a decisive strategic military advantage.

“A frightening Cold-War-type arms race to counter the U.S. missile defense systems and militarization of space is about to take off in earnest….This arms race is perhaps as dangerous as the Cold War one. This time, however, the trigger is in the hands of only one party – the U.S. establishment.

“Unfortunately, the signs are that the United States is already pulling the trigger.” [31]

The above echoed comparable concerns voiced by Chinese military experts three months before. In a book published by the government’s China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, two armed forces experts stated that “Strategic confrontation in outer space is difficult to avoid. The development of outer space forces shows signs that a space arms race to seize the commanding heights is emerging.

“Dominated by the idea of absolute domination of outer space, a major power is making a big fuss about space domination, creating rivals and provoking confrontation.” [32]

In a stark warning last October, veteran Russian journalist Valentin Zorin  said that “The new arms race will be incomplete without plans for the weaponization of outer space” and “U.S. attempts to turn outer space into a third field of combat operations may prove as dangerous as the American decision to use a nuclear device on August, 1945.” [33]

Remarking on the fact that in the United Nations General Assembly 166 nations had voted for the Russian and Chinese proposal to ban the militarization of space a week earlier, Russian analyst Alexei Arbatov was quoted as saying last winter that “Washington does plan to deploy its ABM system elements in near-Earth orbits, and it is only Russia that can counter such plans.” [34]

Late last November Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, again urged “UN member-states to join the moratorium on the deployment of weapons in outer space” and “mentioned that it is on Russia’s initiative that the UN General Assembly has been adopting resolutions, for many years now, aimed at the prevention of the arms race in space. The only one who objected to the adoption of this resolution was the United States….” [35]

A commentary on the US’s lone opposition to the resolution reminded readers that “This year it was only the US delegate who voted against a resolution to that end as the US ABM defence programme is known to provide, among other things, for deploying ABM system elements in outer space.

“This actually means that Washington sees space as a potential operations theatre….”

The same source provided this editorial recommendation:

“The United States action can only be described as unilateral and undermining international and strategic stability, actions that could eventually result in another stage of the arms race.

“Before it is too late, one should seriously consider ways to prevent the arms race from being extended to outer space.” [36]

Last December Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, stated that the United States “is seriously considering space as a potential sphere of armed struggle and hence is not giving up plans of deploying strike means in space.”

He is paraphrased as adding “that the US assumes first strike capabilities and that any attack would wipe out retaliation.” [37]

That is, the militarization of space can result in a nuclear conflagration on earth not only by accident or the law of unintended consequences but fully by design.

If the US plan is, by a combination of ground, sea and air delivery systems, to destroy any ability to retaliate after a devastating first blow, the Russian general warned of what in fact would ensue:

“The Americans will never manage to implement this scenario because Russian strategic nuclear forces, including the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, will be capable of delivering a retaliatory strike given any course of developments.

“After receiving authorization from the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces it will not take our strategic missile force more than two-three minutes to carry out the task of launching missiles.” [38]

What Solovtsov has described is the nightmare humanity has dreaded since the advent of the nuclear age: An exchange of nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles. One that might result from an attack launched at least partially from space and in one manner or other in relation to space-based military assets.

An analogous warning was issued last year by the then commander of Russia’s Space Forces, General Vladimir Popovkin, who said, “Space is one of the few places around not yet separated by borders, and any kind of military deployments there would upset the existing balance of forces on our planet.” [39]

This past March American space researcher Matt Hoey stated that an arms race in space would be “increasing the risk of an accidental nuclear war while shortening the time for sanity and diplomacy to come into play to halt crises.”

“If these systems are deployed in space we will be tipping the nuclear balance between nations that has ensured the peace for decades.

“The military space race will serve the defense industry much like the cold war and this is already being witnessed in relation to missile defense systems.” [40]

Regarding the interconnection between missile defense and spaced-based first strike capabilities, the following indicates what the ultimate Pentagon plan envisions:

“If [the missile defense system] is fully deployed (as three echelons of ground-, sea-, and air/space-based), the United States will regain the capability (for the first time since the 1940s-1950s) of launching a destructive first strike at Russia without fear of retaliation.

“The several dozen Russian missiles likely to survive a combined attack by nuclear and conventional forces (including precision weapons capable of destroying fortified launching sites), and hence meant to provide the retaliatory ‘deterrent’ strike, would be an easy target for a fully deployed combat-ready missile defense system.” [41]

This March Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington said of the militarization of space that “the fallout could be tremendous.” He told a major daily that the dangers “are in fact so cataclysmic that arms control advocates like himself would simply seek to prohibit the use of weapons beyond the earth’s atmosphere.” [42]

In a week when the United Nations reports that over a billion children are threatened by war on the planet and the world’s largest arms merchant, Lockheed Martin, boasts of preparing to sell over 6,000 advanced stealth warplanes to the Pentagon and its allies, humanity has enough to contend with on earth without facing the additional threat of war from the heavens.

1) Interfax, June 17, 2009
2) Itar-Tass, June 17, 2009
3) Voice of Russia, June 17, 2009
4) Itar-Tass, June 17, 2009
5) Russian Information Agency Novosti, June 10, 2009
6) American Chronicle, Congressional Desk, June 11, 2009
7) Defense News, June 4, 2009
8) Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, March 30, 2009
9) Maxwell-Gunter Dispatch, April 14, 2009
10) Global Security, May 12, 2009
11) Associated Press, May 13, 2009
12) Itar-Tass, April 3, 2009
13) U.S. National Space Policy, August 31, 2006
14) Itar-Tass, April 3, 2009
15) Russian Information Agency Novosti, March 3, 2009
16) Associated Press, March 5, 2009
17) Russian Information Agency Novosti, March 7, 2009
18) Itar-Tass, February 6, 2009
19) NATO International, March 11, 2009
20) Mainichi Daily News, April 28, 2009
21) Space Review, May 11, 2009
22) Air Force Link, American Forces Press Service, April 4, 2009
23) Ibid
24) Bloomberg News, January 2, 2009
25) Aero-News Network, May 7, 2009
26) domain-B, May 15, 2009
27) Ducommun Incorporated, April 29, 2009
28) China Daily, June 14, 2002
29) Strengthening the Outer Space Treaty by N. Gopal Raj
The Hindu, December 12, 2008
30) RosBusinessConsulting, September 23, 2008
31) Russia Profile, September 19, 2008
32) Daily Jang (Pakistan), June 3, 2008
33) Voice of Russia, October 10, 2008
34) Voice of Russia, November 1, 2008
35) Voice of Russia, November 20, 2008
36) Voice of Russia, November 22, 2008
37) Russia Today, December 1, 2008
38) Ibid
39) Voice of Russia, May 24, 2008
40) Space Race Hikes Risk of Nuclear War by Sherwood Ross
OpEd News, March 30, 2009
41) Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 11, 2008
42) Voice of Russia, March 19, 2008


Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Prospects For A Multipolar World by Rick Rozoff