Stimson in the News

Publication: Anti-satellite Weapons, Deterrence and Sino-American Space Relations

in Program

 

Satellite over earth

In September 2013, the Stimson
Center

issued a collection of six essays titled “Anti-satellite Weapons,
Deterrence and Sino-American Space Relations,”
which provide a range of
viewpoints about cooperation between the U.S. and China in space.

“Some of the essays, mine included, are cautiously
optimistic,” said Stimson Co-founder and Space Security Project Director Michael
Krepon, who edited the essays with Research Associate Julia Thompson and wrote
an essay titled “Space and Nuclear Deterrence.” 

 “Other essays are not optimistic about how
this will turn out,” Krepon added. “The essays reflect pretty accurately the
lack of a U.S. consensus on this set of issues. This is perfectly
appropriate, given how early we are in the U.S.-China space competition and how
opaque China is about its activities in space.” 

“As these essays demonstrate, there are no simple
answers to avoiding a dangerous military competition in space,” Krepon said. “But
all of the authors agree that it would be prudent for major powers to agree
on a code of conduct that establishes rules of responsible behavior in
space.”

Stimson
first began to advance the concept of a code of conduct for responsible
spacefaring nations in 2002 and regularly hosts important conversations on
space issues and challenges.

Stimson
President and CEO Ellen Laipson said: “Over the past two years, Stimson
programming has focused on deterring attacks on space assets, promoting greater
cooperation in space between the United States and China and avoiding a
dangerous military competition in space. This collection of es­says captures
important insights from Stimson workshops, roundtables and public events.”

Stimson Chairman Lincoln P. Bloomfield,
Jr. writes in an introduction to the volume of essays about the dangers of
moving warfare into space, with nations targeting the satellites of adversaries
for destruction.

“Unchecked,
hostile action in space could produce debris, orbiting the earth at nine times
the speed of a bullet, so prevalent as to put at risk all sophisticated
spacecraft including satellites,” Bloomfield writes. “This could place manned
and unmanned space flight at unacceptable risk of mission failure due to
catastrophic collision with debris.” As a result, “mankind’s access to space
for exploration and pursuit of knowledge would be closed off … possibly for a
very long time.”

In
his essay, Krepon argues that a higher priority should be given to space
diplomacy.

“China
and the United States are increasing their capabilities to engage in space
warfare,” Krepon writes. “Beijing has been reluctant to engage bilaterally with
Washington on space diplomacy. One path forward leads to sensible rules of the
road for space. Another leads to warfare in which every space-faring nation
loses.”

In
addition to Krepon, other authors of essays in the volume include James A.
Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Bruce W. MacDonald
of the United States Institute of Peace; Karl Mueller of the RAND Corporation;
Michael Nacht of the University of California, Berkeley; and Brian Weeden of
the Secure World Foundation.

The
publication is made possible through the support of the Defense Threat
Reduction Agency and the New-Land Foundation. This material is made possible in part by support from the
Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering Weapons of Mass
Destruction (PASCC), Center on Contemporary Conflict, Naval Postgraduate
School, under Grant No. N00244-12-1-0027 PASCC is supported by Defense
Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

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