Pre-emptive War Goes Interplanetary

October 22nd, 2006 - by admin

R. J. Eskow / The Huffington Post & Martin Sieff / UPI – 2006-10-22 08:54:43

Neocons in Space:
Pre-emptive War Goes Interplanetary
The Privatization of Government Space Projects

R. J. Eskow / The Huffington Post

(October 15, 2006) — Welcome to a radical new vision of space and the future, from the same crowd that brought you Iraq. In a little-noted policy document, the Bush Administration has unilaterally declared its right to conduct pre-emptive attacks on foreign spacecraft and on any objects or installations that might support them from the ground. It has also declared its opposition to international treaties that might restrict space exploration to primarily peaceful purposes.

These policies could have disastrous consequences right here on Earth someday.

They’ve also committed themselves to privatizing government space projects, an initiative that could hand billions more tax dollars to the usual set of government beneficiaries. And they emphasize nuclear power in space — ironically, on the same day that Americans learned of hundreds of cancer deaths from a nuclear accident in Southern California — deaths that were covered up by the US government and its contractor Boeing.

But the new directive’s biggest change from previous space policies is in its emphasis on war. While it supports some positive goals, its militaristic statements have the effect of declaring a “New Space Order.”

One thing the world should have learned by now is to take the syndicate now in power at its word. Their blue-sky academic exercises in re-imagining the Middle East led to a catastrophic war in Iraq. Theoretical discussions about abrogation of American rights resulted in the creation of barbed-wire ‘Free Speech Zones,’ the dismantling of habeus corpus, and the assertion of a unilateral right to spy on our country’s own citizens.

That means that a recent Presidential Directive on National Space Policy (pdf file) should be considered a serious declaration of purpose. Steven Aftergood of the FAS Project on Government Secrecy describes the policy as “assertive.” That’s an understatement.

First, after a few bromides about the peaceful use of space, the document declares a new emphasis on militarization by declaring that those ‘peaceful purposes’ “allow US defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests.” Then comes this important statement:

“The United States considers space capabilities — including the ground and space segments and supporting links — vital to its national interests. Consistent with this policy, the United States will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests.”

Note that each of these statements is sweeping in nature. Terms like “adversary,” “deter,” “deny,” and “those actions necessary” are undefined. This paragraph asserts an unlimited US right to act pre-emptively against the space capability of any nation who it chooses to label an adversary or a threat.

What could those acts actually be? There are only a few possibilities. One would be to use ground, air, or space-based weaponry (e.g. missiles, ‘killer satellites’) to ‘take out’ satellites or even space stations placed by a foreign power. Another, more threatening possibility, is that the US could unilaterally ‘deny the use of space capabilities’ by bombing a launching facility or staging area. A third possibility is the destruction of research facilities in order to prevent a nation from ‘developing capabilities’ for hostile space flight.

Presumably the ‘one-percent doctrine’ would also apply here. If there is a one-percent possibility that another nation might use its space capability against the US, even to defend itself, pre-emptive attacks could be undertaken.

This last point is critical. The Administration is asserting its right to deny any country its own space-based defense capability, while continuing to pour millions into this technology (which has proved spectacularly unsuccessful to date).

Only a few countries are capable of implementing such technology right now, the likeliest of which is Russia. The President’s claim represents, in effect, a re-establishment of the Cold War and a declaration of his unilateral right to move beyond the spirit of those treaties that helped end it.

The Directive also dismisses the central role of treaties in preserving peaceful coexistence in space, saying instead that “the United States … rejects any limitations on the fundamental right of the United States to operate in and acquire data from space,” adding:

“Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing, and operations or other activities in space for US national interests.”

There are good arguments to be made for taking an aggressive (excuse me, ‘assertive’) stand in favor of our right to conduct espionage and other defense-related activities from space-based platforms. But it’s a long leap from that position to the one in this Directive, which closes the door on future agreements that might be in the interests of the US .

This Directive is yet another example of contempt for diplomacy, and for a lack of skill and knowledge in the field of negotiation. Strong and smart negotiators don’t telegraph their position before starting to talk, nor do they box themselves into a corner with bellicose statements. The watchword of a good negotiator is “Don’t talk before you talk.” They fail to heed this good advice — but then, negotiation isn’t the objective.

Even from a hawkish point of view, the bellicose statements are foolish. If you perceive a real threat at some point, you can always choose to act. But warlike statements only serve to limit a government’s options — or to make it appear weak should it choose not to act.

The underlying purpose of the Directive, however, is to declare a “New American Century” and assume the rights of empire — in this case, in space. But ‘Star Wars’ fans will tell you what can happen when someone tries to assert imperial power across the dominion of space.

The privatization of the space effort is spelled out here, too. “Departments and agencies shall use commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent, purchase commercial capabilities and services when they are available in the commercial marketplace … continue to include and increase US private sector participation in design and development,” and “refrain from conducting activities that preclude, deter, or compete with US commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety.”

In other words, the US space program must now use the same procurement policies that brought you Halliburton, Blackwater, lost billions in Iraq, and faulty body armor. If nothing else, the Republicans are consistent to a fault in their desire to enrich a small group of contractors.

There are some good things in the Directive, too. The development of a healthy private-sector space industry is, in fact, a good goal for US public policy — provided that it’s balanced by strong oversight and supported with public-sector research that’s available to all Americans.

The Directive encourages the development of more American space professionals, and emphasizes stronger research and development initiatives. These are also excellent objectives. It emphasizes “… a sustained and affordable human and robotic program of space exploration” for scientific research — although most space scientists would rather leave the emphasis on “robotic” exploration, which is a much more cost-effective way of advancing human knowledge.

When it comes to the militaristic threats and plans, however, it’s important to take it very seriously when the Republicans make statements of this kind. Day after day they’re working in think tanks across the country, envisioning the world as they’d like to see it. Then they put their theories into action in the real-world.

This Directive is a glimpse into their thinking. Therefore, it’s a glimpse of a possible dark future where pre-emptive space conflict triggers earthbound war — possibly with a nuclear superpower.

Democrats and other groups should take the lead in articulating an alternative vision for space — one that includes scientific research, improvement in US research capabilities, development of new technologies, and the novel uses of space by individuals, organizations, and commercial interests.

All of this can be accomplished with an emphasis on peaceful international collaboration, while at the same time reserving the right to use space as part of our array of defense capabilities.

Until that vision is articulated and implemented, however, take note: today’s policy statement is tomorrow’s reality.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
© Copyright R. J. Eskow, The Huffington Post, 2006

Ballistic Missle Defense
Rumblings from Russia

Martin Sieff / United Press International

WASHINGTON (October 19, 2006) — As America’s European allies become more enthusiastic about ballistic missile defense, a Russian general has issued an ominous warning. In a May 25 column in BMD Focus, we warned that the Russian reaction to the embrace of ballistic missile defense by NATO member nations in Europe, especially former Soviet satellites during the Cold War, “could raise tensions in Europe to a level they have not reached since the last great showdown in the Cold War a quarter of a century ago.”

An article published in the Moscow newspaper Izvestiya on Tuesday, and written by a senior Russian general, adds weight to this concern.

According to a report of the article carried by Mosnews Wednesday, Yevgeny Buzhinsky, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s international military cooperation department, wrote that Russia would interpret the deployment of US anti-ballistic missile units “near the Russian borders” as “a real threat to our deterrent forces,” the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces.

Russian leaders would “view the planned deployment of US missile defense components in Eastern and Central Europe as a security threat and take retaliatory measures,” Buzhinsky wrote.

“We would view that as an unfriendly gesture on behalf of the United States, some eastern European nations and NATO as a whole,” he wrote. “Such actions would require taking adequate retaliatory measures of military and political character.”

Ironically, Buzhinsky’s article appeared only three days after the Russian Defense Ministry announced Saturday that Russia would participate in a joint missile defense exercise in the second half of October with NATO.

According to a report carried Saturday by China’s official Xinhua news agency, the exercise was scheduled to start on Monday, Oct. 16 and continue for nine days until Oct. 25.

The exercise was intended to boost “joint planning and coordination procedures for Russia and NATO air defense and anti-missile command structures,” the ministry was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying. It was scheduled to take place at the Fourth Central Research Institute.

The current exercise is the third of its kind. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, they “have made it possible to practice planning, organizing and conducting concerted and coordinated combat actions to respond to non-strategic ballistic missile attacks in designated areas of responsibility,” according to the Xinhua report.

The exercises are clearly intended to boost transparency and maintain trust between NATO and Russia. But Gen. Buzhinsky’s article sends another, more alarming message: Russian policymakers are becoming increasingly distrustful of the United States, and they appear increasingly willing to contemplate a major offensive nuclear arms build-up of their own to counter the growing deployment of US-built and operated BMD forces in Central Europe.

Thanks to continued very high global oil and gas prices, the Russian government has enjoyed soaring revenues and, as we have noted in BMD Focus and our sister BMD Watch columns, it has been using some of this wealth to upgrade its Strategic Rocket Forces on a scale not seen in more than 20 years.

Also, Gen. Buzhinsky’s article appeared almost a month after Marshall S. Billingslea, NATO’s assistant secretary-general for defense investment, announced on Sept. 18 that the 26-nation alliance had approved the construction of a $90 million BMD command and control system over the next six years, as well as an integrated test bed for the security of all its member countries.

As we noted in these columns on September 21, “The sum of $90 million, or 75 million euros, is peanuts in the multi-billion-dollar world of BMD acquisition and development. But the event was nonetheless a highly significant one. It followed a series of NATO feasibility studies that reported to alliance headquarters in Brussels that a BMD system to defend the alliance’s European members was both desirable and feasible.”

“The Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program will put in place an inter-operable and integrated command/control center that provides individual member country’s missile defense assets to be used for the common protection of NATO and her territory,” the Italian AKI news agency reported at the time.

Gen. Buzhinsky’s blunt warnings in his article should be seen as an initial Russian response to the NATO announcement.

As we noted in our May 25 BMD Focus column, “The development of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs has prompted at least two major European nations to sign on more enthusiastically than ever before to the US BMD program.”

The Bush administration hopes to deploy at least 10 ground-based anti-ballistic missile interceptors at a base in Eastern Europe by 2010 to defend European nations from an attack by a so-called “rogue nation.”

The enthusiasm of European nations, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, for BMD has soared over the past six weeks, since the successful test of a Ground-Based Midcourse Interceptor launched from Alaska in destroying a target rocket fired from California on September 1.

Gen. Buzhinksy’s article should be seen as an initial Russian response to that development too. But it was far from the first warning of its kind. Back in May, four star Army Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the Russian chief of staff, warned that Russia could react in far-reaching and damaging ways against Poland if it agreed to deploy US BMD systems on its territory.

“Go ahead and build that shield. You have to think, though, what will fall on your heads afterwards,” Baluyevsky said. And he pointedly added, “It is understandable that countries that are part of such a shield increase their risk.”

Sir Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion teaches that every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. The zeal and success with which the Bush administration is pushing BMD deployment in Europe is setting off a Russian reaction to it that may prove to be a lot more than “equal.”

Walker’s World: Putin v. Europe
Martin Walker / UPI Editor Emeritus

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2006) — This weekend’s Finland summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Union leaders was intended to be a friendly and informal affair. Instead, the Europeans are arriving with clenched teeth and narrowed eyes, increasingly suspicious of Russian behavior but fearing that their energy dependency on Russia leaves them few cards to play.

Energy is the EU’s strategic concern, but human rights groups and members of the European Union and the various national parliaments have mobilized considerable pressure for the EU leaders to make clear their growing alarm at Russia’s trend toward authoritarian rule.

The assassination in Moscow last week of the well-known human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya, just before she published a new salvo on Russia’s brutal war against Chechen separatists, will be high on the agenda, because so many of the journalists covering the summit in Finland’s southern city of Lahti are determined to keep it there.

EU Commission President Jose Barroso and Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, both vowed this week to demand answers from Putin directly over her murder.

“Putin has suggested her killers might have been out to stain his government and insists they will be punished,” Solana said Tuesday in Luxembourg. However, the International Federation of Journalists says the death of Politkovskaya — the 13th journalist slain since Putin came to power in 1999 — illustrates a “crisis of impunity” confronting the media in Russia.

The Europeans are also deeply concerned with Russia’s continued blockade of Georgia, the former Soviet Republic that makes no secret of its dream to join the EU and NATO. The European media has portrayed Russia’s actions as barely-disguised bullying in defense of its own sphere of influence in the Caucasus and its determination to keep the Europeans out.

The EU’s council of foreign ministers declared Tuesday: “The council expresses its grave concern at the measures adopted by the Russian Federation against Georgia and at their economic, political and humanitarian consequences.”

They were also troubled by the roundups of Georgian “illegal immigrants” inside Russia for deportation, which saw one deportee die at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport this week, and urged Russia “not to pursue measures targeting Georgians in the Russian Federation.”

Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov raised European hackles when he dismissed EU concerns, warning that President Putin would not be happy to get human rights lectures from EU leaders in Finland “when our ethnic Russian people are being treated as non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia.”

The Baltic states are currently being visited for the first time by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, who is attracting huge crowds as a symbol of their new identity as members of both the EU and NATO, after decades of Soviet rule. Chizhov, who seemed irritated by the royal visit, also suggested that Russians needed no lessons in democracy from an EU which had its own failings, including Britain’s second parliamentary chamber, the unelected House of Lords.

Behind these headline issues of human rights and Russia’s apparent turn away from democracy, the EU’s deepest worry is that Russia intends to use its new oil wealth and its near-dominance over Europe’s gas taps to drive a very hard bargain for its oil and exports.

Russia has refused to ratify the international energy charter and its transit protocol it signed in 1991, which would require Russia to open its pipelines for the transit of natural gas from Central Asia to Europe.

The Putin administration made state control over its energy assets and the pipelines into a top priority, clamping down on Western and private oil companies to ensure that state-owned energy giants like Gazprom dominate the industry in Russia. Deals that were reached in the 1990s, when Russia was poorer and had more need of Western expertise, are being forced into renegotiation on Russian terms.

The clampdown on Georgia is also related to oil, since the new Western-financed pipeline through Georgia that carries Azerbaijan’s oil from the Caspian basin is one of the few leaks in Russia’s control of the pipelines.

Putin has bluntly refused to ratify the charter, saying it “does not accord with our national interest,” even though EU leaders at the G8 summit in St Petersburg this summer warned that fulfillment of the charter would be “a test of Russia’s integrity.”

Putin has also sought to use the oil weapon in ways that would divide the EU, reaching a deal with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to build a pipeline under the Baltic that would feed Russian gas to Germany directly, without going through Poland and Ukraine and thus not allowing them any transit control. Schroeder later took a highly-paying job with the Russian-led consortium, outraging Poland.

Earlier this month, Putin tried to use this divide-and-rule tactic again, offering Germany unique access to the new Shtokman gas field, having already ruled out the expected participation of Russian and French energy groups.

This time, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany spurned the Russian offer, instead signing an energy pact with France that commits both countries to seek a single market of EU-wide contracts in a balanced energy relationship with Russia.

At some point a deal is likely, under which the Europeans will get pipeline and exploitation rights in Russian energy, in return for which Russia gets the rights to buy into European energy companies, including the retail gas and oil suppliers. In effect, this means allowing EU companies to go upstream in Russia, while Russia goes downstream into the EU.

But it will take a great deal of hard negotiation, and probably a lot of rhetoric — but little action — over human rights and Russia’s authoritarian drift, to get there. In the long run, however, the cynical Russians who advise Putin are probably right to say that when the winters get cold, the EU will put their energy supplies above their concern for human rights.

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