Space as NATO’s New Operational Sphere – Will Starship Troopers Novel Come True?

  • NATO plans to allocate funding to research space threats that could be identified as military threats.
  • NATO agreed to create their first ever space policy in June 2019.
  • Currently, the UN has five treaties on outer space.

NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs are meeting this week at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the  is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949. It is expected that NATO will acknowledge space as NATO’s new operational sphere at these meetings.

It is plausible to expect one day NATO will have weapons located in space, but not in the near future. Interestingly, Russia recently declassified documents pertaining to their attempt during the Soviet era to launch space station Almaz which contained the artillery system Chit-1. The Almaz program was a highly secret Soviet military space station program begun in the early 1960s.

NATO plans to allocate funding to research space threats that could be identified as military threats. During the NATO Military Committee’s meeting on October 14, the spotlight was on General John Raymond, Commander of the newly re-established US Space Command, who identified that space can also be used for aggression. Raymond serves concurrently as Joint Force Space Component Commander. Previously, the US had a space command from 1985-2002.

NATO agreed to create their first ever space policy in June 2019. One of the main objectives of the policy is to protect satellites from being hacked and jammed. Russia already utilized radio electronic warfare in Donbas, Ukraine and demonstrated their ability to change and silence GPS signals in the region in 2014. NATO does not own satellites. Nevertheless, NATO member countries today own 65% of satellites in space.

Currently, the UN has five treaties on outer space. However, in the future they might change, especially with proposals for moon colonies and additional projects that involve inhabiting other planets in the future.

The outer space treaty has provisions which does not allow:

  • Placement of nuclear weapons
  • Placement of any weapon of mass destruction
  • Installation of weapons on celestial bodies
  • Stationing weapons in outer space
  • Establishment of military bases, fortification or other installations
  • Testing weapons in outer space
  • Conducting military maneuvers on celestial bodies

In 2015 and 2017 respectively, the US and Luxembourg enacted bills granting property rights on resources collected in outer space. Hence, the biggest beneficiaries would be the defense and technical companies investing in the exploration of space.

Space is predicted to be the next terrain for a war and also provides a myriad of opportunities. The threat level from Russia hacking and jamming satellites is high. NATO has the right approach and strategy pertaining to space.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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