letter to editor

When I grew up, I was treated to television producer Gene Roddenberry’s gentle version of a humanist future for mankind on "Star Trek." 


Our planet explored space, and a post-capitalist, post-money civilization where poverty had disappeared defined life on Earth. When it came to foreign policy, peace ruled the universe. The technology was unbelievable, and the United Federation of Planets served as a galactic United Nations. However, the reality of today’s geopolitical conflicts makes this world seem unattainable. The geopolitical conflict between the United States, Russia, and China are spilling into space and each side wants to litter the final frontier with weapons.  


A top U.S. space commander advocated a wonderful idea when it comes to the idea of rule of law in space. Maj. General DeAnna Burt, the commander of SPACECOM's Combined Force Space Component Command, said our country needed a deconfliction channel with our adversaries to ensure safe operations in space. She called for transparent protocols between Russia and China.  


"I think it's interesting in other domains, particularly with the Russians, we have a high degree of communication," Burt said in a report. "My air brothers and sisters will tell me we have (communication lines) to the Russian government at the military level ... and other areas where we talk to each other and say, 'Hey, that's a little too close,' or 'Hey, did you mean to do that?' before something escalates.” 

A similar deconfliction line existed between U.S. and Russian forces in Syria. At this time, the Defense Department, State Department, and others in the national security establishment are working toward norms for responsibility in space that will be presented to the U.N. General Assembly. The United Nations will be reviewing inputs this summer, according to reports. Gen. John Raymond has also voiced support for rules in space, citing an incident last year of two Russian satellites tailing an American satellite.  


In addition, the Center for Strategic and International Studies warned of increased co-orbital activity amongst the world’s powers last year. The report spoke of jamming incidents. Countries like the United States, Russia and China are running interference on one another in space and normalizing ways to disrupt operations, said Todd Harrison, director of both the Aerospace Security Project and Defense Budget Analysis at CSIS, and one of the report's co-authors.  


New rules, discussed and implemented by the United Nations, will give the organization some credibility, something it lacks at this time. I guess one should say it will gain a certain amount of credibility if the rules are followed. Space should be considered mankind’s final frontier, if I may borrow another image from "Star Trek," not the final battleground. The suggested rules will not make space a peaceful place suitable only for exploration, but it could be a start toward more comprehensive arms control, a rather affordable form of security. It’s only a beginning, but let’s hope that we can find a suitable end!  



Jason Sibert

Executive director of the Peace Economy Project