Admitting when You are Scary

Publication Date: 
July 2015
Description: 
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Roundtable
Project: 
Re-evaluating Space Security
The Reconsidering the Rules for Space Project
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds
I agree with my roundtable colleagues Wu Chunsi and Bharath Gopalaswamy on important points—possessing antisatellite weapons doesn't make it rational for any country to launch a nuclear war, and universal implementation of credible no-first-use policies would reduce nuclear risk more directly than would limiting space weapons. But I dispute my colleagues' underlying premise that when Americans warn about the dangers posed to international security by the spread of antisatellite capabilities, they are only trying—in order to preserve US military, technological, and economic dominance—to prevent potential competitors from acquiring capabilities that Washington developed decades ago. No matter what officials in various nations say they are doing in space, the spread of antisatellite capability is real. China, with its 2007 “outer space experiment,” demonstrated it could destroy one of its own satellites with hit-to-kill technology—much as the United States showed in 2008 it could adapt an Aegis missile defense interceptor to break up one of its satellites (the USA-193, whose fuel tank putatively could have threatened “public safety”). Likewise, though India is conducting antisatellite research in the context of a ballistic missile defense program rather than through a stand-alone antisatellite development program, there is nothing militarily significant about this distinction. Read the full article.