Russia’s “chain-reaction warfare,” via space shrapnel, weaponized refugees, and energy supply influence are much analyzed, yet there has been little devised to deter or decisively stop it. This last week, Russia blasted one of its defunct spy satellites into over 1500 fragments too high for the pieces to timely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere; Putin crony and Belarus autocrat Alexander Lukashenko used crackdown tactics to drive refugees toward the Polish border; and Russia’s now much-leveraged cartel, OPEC+ refused to cooperate with the United States in quelling inflation by pumping more oil from reserves from which it would be more cheaply produced during COVID-19-induced supply chain inflation.
China had set a new precedent for irresponsible satellite detonation in 2007, and as early as 2009 the space junk risk was unmistakable after the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 collision (see the videos below). Accidents are one thing. But knowing detonations of satellites or lack of planning for removing expired satellites today, with 2021’s state of knowledge about the hazards of space debris, is another.
That nation states know better suggests that satellite detonations today are knowing, intentional weaponization of Earth’s orbit. That Russia just engaged in same suggests that Moscow feels it is behind the U.S. and China in space-based capabilities and that destroying others’ space assets might wipe out Russia’s deficit not by competition but by bringing competitors down to a lowest-common denominator to slow down the space race until Moscow can get more earthly advantages to support its own space program AND its ambitious military buildup.
SP poses the following actionable questions, given the state of knowledge and capability today:
(1) Does the United States have the right to protect its space people and assets by defeating anti-sat weapons fired by other powers that pose a probabilistic threat to our people, spacecraft, and satellites in Earth’s orbit, and by association to our satellite-dependent life saving and emergency management capabilities on Earth? In the alternative, does the United States have the right to seize assets and property of powers that blast their own satellites after which the resulting fragments damage or destroy our space people or assets?
(2) Is firing an anti-satellite missile at one’s own satellite, under circumstances making it probable that its fragments would endanger other nations’ space assets amount to firing a missile into a snow laden mountain on an unclaimed island above a known encampment of another nations’ people, property, and vehicles? (probabilistic threat)
(3) Do nations have a duty in space as they do on the world’s open oceans not to deliberately dump or pollute? And if so, do nations have a duty to clean-up their messes in space and on the oceans? If they do not, do international consortiums of other nations and organizations have the right to clean-up such messes and engage in international litigation to obtain damages from polluting and dumping nations, or to enjoin them to cleanup or pay for cleanup? What would be the best remedies against nations that knowingly dump and pollute in space, but do not cleanup?
(4) Do nations using domestic crackdown tactics to unilaterally drive refugees into neighboring nations after having accepted them confer a right on those neighboring nations to seize and use assets and property of the nation state(s) driving the refugees into neighboring states to defray the cost of lawfully handling the refugees?
(5) May nations not belonging to autocratically led oil cartels create their own democratic energy cartels over oil, gas, mineral, and renewable energy exploration and production with which to outcompete and defeat autocratically tainted, weaponized energy economics?
For some background incidents: