Missile Defence/Space

Ballistic missile technologies are dual capable and can be used for delivering nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, launching military and civilian satellites into space, or as interceptors to shoot down others’ missiles as part of missile defence systems.  Since 1998, the Acronym Institute has analysed developments in missile capabilities and missile defence programmes with particular emphasis on promoting space security and cooperation, preventing the weaponization of space, exploring alternative approaches to address missile proliferation and disarmament, and consideration of the regional impacts of such developments, particularly with regard to: US-NATO-Russian relations in Europe and...

Ballistic missile technologies are dual capable and can be used for delivering nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, launching military and civilian satellites into space, or as interceptors to shoot down others’ missiles as part of missile defence systems.  Since 1998, the Acronym Institute has analysed developments in missile capabilities and missile defence programmes with particular emphasis on promoting space security and cooperation, preventing the weaponization of space, exploring alternative approaches to address missile proliferation and disarmament, and consideration of the regional impacts of such developments, particularly with regard to: US-NATO-Russian relations in Europe and the US-Chinese-Korean-Japanese nexus in Northeast Asia.  The Acronym Institute broke new ground and stimulated widespread debate in 2001-3 with proposals for three interconnected approaches for developing an international space security regime: a multilateral code of conduct for sustainable, peace-enhancing uses of space; a ban on anti-satellite attacks; and negotiations on a comprehensive treaty banning the deployment of weapons in and from outer space.

Many satellites are shared and dual purpose, enhancing civilian activities – including communications, navigation, meteorology, disaster management and rescue services, entertainment and banking – as well as military capabilities, such as surveillance and weapons targeting.  This makes space regulation more complicated, and also means that many technologies on which civilian life now depends would be seriously jeopardized if space were turned into the ‘fourth medium of warfare’, as described in the US Space Command’s publication ‘Vision for 2020’ (1997).

For decades, the United States and Soviet Union/Russia dominated space exploration, but more countries are now pushing at the frontiers of space developments. Today’s major players include the national military and commercial programmes of China, India, Brazil, Japan, South Korea and the Europe Union (EU, where countries cooperate through the civilian European Space Agency, ESA, while retaining their own national defence programmes).  As highlighted in the Acronym Institute’s briefing for the European Parliament, titled “Europe’s Space Policies and their relevance to ESDP” there are some fundamental conflicts of interest between the EU’s objectives in terms of nuclear disarmament and the civilian uses of space, and the missile defence programmes being pursued by NATO, involving deployment of US missiles in Europe and increased reliance on military assets in space.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty established core principles for sharing and using outer space and preventing it becoming a battle ground, but it is widely recognized that more needs to be done to address current challenges.  In 2002 China and Russia tabled a draft “Treaty on the Prevention of the Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, [and of] the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects" (PPWT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD).US opposition and CD deadlock have prevented any movement towards negotiations, though the draft has been revised and tabled again with more co-sponsors, most recently on 12 February 2008.  With China’s increasing investment and confidence in space developments, opinion is divided on whether a comprehensive space security treaty is now a diplomatic objective whose time has come or a lost opportunity due to US intransigence.

In 2010 the EU agreed a revised “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities” to minimise space debris, overcrowding, accidents, damage and destruction and “enhance the safety, security and sustainability of all outer space activities”.  On this basis the EU is seeking support from other space faring nations with the aim of concluding a multilaterally acceptable text that can be adopted internationally.Despite high costs, technological problems, political opposition from significant sectors of European civil society, and concerns raised by other nations, particularly Russia and China, successive US administrations have continued to pursue missile defences, more recently in joint programmes with allies, notably NATO, Japan and South Korea.  From Ronald Reagan’s 1980s’ ‘Strategic Defence Initiative’ (SDI) to the current “US European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA)”, adopted by the November 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, missile defence dreams have proved elusive and destabilizing.  Whether missile interceptors are deployed from outer space, land bases or Aegis destroyers, history teaches that even ostensibly defensive technologies and programmes would have the counterproductive effect of impeding disarmament and confidence-building cooperation and provoking proliferation, as those who feel targeted increase their capabilities to maintain perceived ‘deterrence’ levels.

27 January 2015

Why does China develop weapons systems that it opposes? China criticizes U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, but conducted three BMD tests of its own from 2010 to 2014. China regularly supports a treaty to ban space weapons, but has repeatedly tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) system. It...

22 September 2014

Under Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Barack Obama, America's nuclear weapons spending will eclipse $1 trillion over the next 30 years as the United States spent more in 2014 on its arsenal than at any time in its history – including during the Cold War and World War II.

The...

25 February 2014

The next U.S. military budget will include funds to overhaul Boeing Co's ground-based missile defense system and develop a replacement for an interceptor built by Raytheon Co, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer said Tuesday, citing "bad ...

1 August 2010

Welcome to the Spring/Summer 2010 edition of the Acronym Institute’s International Nuclear Weapons  & Non-Proliferation News, comprising a digest of news on global nuclear weapons policy issues as well as wider disarmament developments and research. This edition has been...

1 August 2009

US-Russia Strategic Arms Talks

Missile Pact Based on Old Plan
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, 13 July 2009
President Obama and Russian President...

26 February 2009

Welcome to the February edition of the Acronym Institute's Nuclear Non-Proliferation News, a digest of news on the UK Trident, missile defence, and international nuclear non-proliferation issues, compiled by Nicola Butler.

British News

Senior Military Figures...

Dr Rebecca Johnson
11 May 2012

The 2012 PrepCom for the NPT finished a few hours early after adopting a procedural report and commenting on the...

Author(s): Dr Rebecca Johnson
19 November 2011

The traditional fishing grounds of a famous community of South Korean women shellfish divers, known as Haenyo ( sea women) are scheduled to be blown up today by military explosives. The government has ordered this desecration at Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island, in order to build a...

Author(s): Dr Rebecca Johnson
16 June 2010

Threat of Weaponisation

Rebecca Johnson PhD, The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Back to the Main Page on Space without Weapons

Thanks and tribute to CONGO for your initiative in convening...

Author(s): Martin Butcher
31 December 2009

By Martin Butcher, December 2009

Summary

The NATO Foreign Ministers meeting which met in Brussels on December 3rd and 4th was largely focused on new plans adopted by the Obama administration for the war in Afghanistan. NATO has many thousands of troops committed to its...

20 July 2009

Trident and Nuclear Submarines

Oral Questions and Debates

10 July 2009

Missile Defence and NATO-Russia relations

Select Committee Report

4 February 2009

Missile Defence and Space

Debates

Written Question

  • ...
Author(s): NATO members participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Chicago
22 May 2012
  1. We, the Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, have gathered in Chicago to renew our commitment to our vital transatlantic bond; take stock of progress in, and reconfirm our commitment to, our operations in Afghanistan,...
Author(s): Council of the European Union
18 December 2009
Full text accessible via attached document
1 August 2008

Rebecca Johnson

Appendix

Chair's Working Paper* containing the Factual Summary of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Second Session, Geneva, 28 April to 9 May 2008

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