One of the key issues that the Munich Security Conference looked at is an up and coming significant potential (and very likely) battlefield: space.
In its report, following the conclusion of the event, space is described as always being intertwined with geopolitics and military interests.
Currently, around the globe there are upwards of 2,000 satellites operated by approximately 75 countries.
“This “democratization” has been possible because space has long been viewed as a global commons – a domain that all states rely on and that requires cooperation to use safely.”
Established space powers like the United States have asserted that “space is no longer a sanctuary.”
At the same time, it is specifically the US that has invested three times more in militarizing space than the remainder of the world combined.
The US and France are both hard at work at their respective “space forces.”
NATO declared space an “operational domain.”
But demonstratively gearing up for a “shooting war” in space may invite calamity rather than deter it: in 2007, one Chinese ASAT (anti-satellite) missile test alone spiked the amount of major debris in orbit by nearly 25%. While space agencies track over 20,000 pieces of debris, they estimate there are around 900,000 objects that could cause fatal collisions with satellites. Even a brief ASAT skirmish could therefore cause disastrous fallout for the entire orbital landscape.
Effective arms control and a space “code of conduct” could head off some of these risks, but new international treaties have long been a nonstarter.
The United States, Russia, and China have been at odds over the basics of space arms control for years. A potential first step is banning destructive ASAT tests, or a consensus of some sort against attacking strategic warning systems in space.
The best outcome would be maintaining space as a “province of all mankind,” in the spirit of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
The report also included graphs, presenting the expectations of much higher satellite launches in the future.
Then there’s a graph presenting for the amount of militarization of the space the US has carried out, in comparison to Russia and China. Washington maintains that both Moscow and Beijing are attempting to rapidly militarize space and that is why it is needed to confront them.
And finally, the graph presents the number of objects in space that are being tracked, such as debris, and how they’ve spiked after an incident in space, or an event such as the Chinese ASAT test.
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