12 June 2019

From “America First” to “freedom to operate in, from and towards space”

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Image source: Mediafax
“Spatial Force is a dumb idea”  

The statement comes from the American astronaut Mark Kelly and it is one of the many reactions against Donald Trump’s initiative, who recently signed the fourth directive in space field, which proposes the foundation of a Space Force as a sixth military forces category.  

It is difficult to establish if, besides the colored formulation, in a similar key to American president’s speeches, the conclusion is legit and if there are also other reasons which could lead to a similar affirmation, besides the one Mark Kelly probably had. 

There could be an attempt to that end starting from directive’s goal, which is for the Defence Department and the intelligence community to create collaboration mechanisms to improve the spatial military operations and capacities.  An intelligence community which does not seem to be in a consensus with the president, the disputes between the security agencies and Donald Trump emerged due to some decisions made by the White House leader, the suspicions regarding his relation with Russia, but also a lack of expertise in the field becoming almost a common denominator.

The allegations against the secrete services for illegally sending information to the press (The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN), the withdrawal of the security notification for some of the former chiefs of the American agencies, allegations for politicizing and, in some of the cases, taking a financial advantage of their public positions, dismissals across structures, budget cut offs, these are all part of president’s behavior, one which also brought critics from the opposite politicians, as well as from some members of its own party and civil society’s representatives, being proofs of a beyond reach consensus.

To these we add also the frequent inconsistencies in White House’s leader speeches, whether inconsistencies between its own statements, or of one fact, like it was, for example, the presentation speech of the US National Security Strategy. Without considering the content of the document, which is analyzing the Russian and Chinese threats against the national security, Donald Trump spoke about the necessity to build an excellent partnership with Russia and China, also describing a friendly conversation with Vladimir Putin. Hence, at that time, there were rumors about a surreal breach between the strategy itself and president’s statements (Thomas Wright, Brookings Institute).

Recently, at the end of January, Donald Trump has spurred the intelligence community leaders to go to school who, across an annual audience in front of the Senate regarding the global security threats, have refuted president’s opinions on concrete issues.  

For example, agencies think that it is less probable for the North-Koran regime to give up the nuclear arsenal, a threat which the president has eliminated through its diplomacy, and, as for Iran, the secrete services are saying that, currently, there are no steps towards developing a nuclear bomb, state’s actions being fully accordingly with the nuclear treaty’s provisions from 2015, wherefrom the US pull out.

What are the strategic documents saying?

2017: North Korea spends hundreds of million dollars on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons wherewith it could threaten the American territory. It aims to be able to eliminate millions of Americans with nuclear weapons. Iran is developing more advanced ballistic missiles and it has the potential to restart activities in nuclear weapons field. The accent the US puts on antimissile defence targets North Korea and Iran, it does not want to break the strategic balance, neither the relation with Russia and China (Security Strategy).

2018: Iran and North Korea –rogue states- are destabilizing the region with nuclear weapons and by supporting terrorism. North Korea continues to develop mass destruction weapons and long range missiles. US’s investigations in antimissile defence is targeting the North Korean threats (Defence Strategy).

2019: Chinese army’s modernization as well as its will to get the economic and territorial supremacy in Pacific remain a concern, although there are collaboration opportunities with Beijing on common interest topics like North Korean threats and the continuation of its concerns in the nuclear field and ballistic missiles technology. Iran, despite its 2015 commitment to engage in a peaceful nuclear program, wants to get more advanced missiles and military capabilities and continues to support the terrorist groups (Intelligence Strategy).


Controlled nuclear conflict

The evaluation of the Intelligence Community, which raised so much frustration for the president, should be read, however, together with another strategic document: Nuclear Posture Review, an analyses made by the Defence Department over the US nuclear policy, strategy and capabilities for the next 5 to 10 years.

Why is the Nuclear Posture Review so important in this whole landscape? Because, although the officials who issued it are saying that they are maintaining the same ton thy had in the previous four, made after the end of the Cold War, Nuclear Posture Review, from February 2018, is actually interrupting a tradition of...strategic attitude: to promote non-aggressiveness and repeated efforts to reduce, globally, a type of guns which has a significant destructive potential.

The current...position that some say it has logical shortcomings and it is simplistically and approaching deterrence over the hill is proposing the enlargement of the conditions that could actually allow the use of nuclear weapons also if meeting a non-nuclear threat and supports the necessity to develop some low-efficiency nuclear capabilities.

Not the nuclear attack, but any aggression could, in fact, generate a nuclear weapons-based answer. The development of some low-efficiency nuclear capacities would be necessary to combat Russia’s possible intention to be the first to use this type of guns in a conventional conflict (an idea known as escalation to de-escalation, being what the Russian military doctrine would propose).

At a strategic level it emerges a wrong reasoning: a nuclear conflict could be controlled, and a nuclear war could have some boundaries, boundaries offered, among others, by the use of some low-efficiency devices.

All of it made with massive costs dedicated to develop new nuclear capacities, which would be added to those necessary to develop the program Barack Obama elaborated, to remake and recapitalize the nuclear triad.

Equally important is that, across the Nuclear Posture Review 2018, disarmament and control over nuclear armament are placed on a secondary plan. It is mentioned, for example, that the United States do not support the ratification of the Treaty for the full prohibition of nuclear tests, as the US must be ready to restart the nuclear tests are response to extreme technological or geopolitical challenges.

In an era wherein the new START is about to expire (2021), and US and the Russian Federation’ withdrawals from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty made the Security Conference from Munchen to reaffirm that the whole nuclear control armament regime is taken by storm (Jens Stoltenberg, NATO General Secretary), US’s increased dependency on nuclear arsenal, for its protection, and the allies’ as well, could led to the intensification of the global competition in the field and risk’s increase over a nuclear conflict.

However, Donald Trump is convinced of the necessity to modernize the nuclear arsenal, as much as to deter any aggression until states will join forces to eliminate any nuclear weapons gestures, which, in his point of view, would be magical (the speech about the state of the nation from 2018).

But, the same president is questioning the NATO value, the value of the United States alliances. And he is also the one to make efforts, following the America First spirit and the republican catchphrase of peace through force, for the creation of a spatial force to ensure military power’s projection, the liberty of operating in, from and towards space.

An environment transformed by competitors and enemies into a battlefield, an environment wherein the US will try to deter, combat and defeat the threats, which are hostile to its national interests and allies’ as well (The Space Strategy 2018).

Peace through force

The US is deviating more and more from the doctrine promoted by Eisenhower, the space as sanctuary, as an environment that should be kept to be used by everyone, with prohibited mass destruction weapons, and it is embracing another strategic argument. The supremacy US has in spatial field, thanks to its aggressive rhetoric, thanks to peace through force, will be seen by the other states as a threat and will increase the risk of a conflict.

When the president was promoting the idea which aimed at increasing lethality and the effectiveness of joint forces, the US House Committee on Armed Services leadership, a commission responsible with financing and monitoring the Defence Department and the armed forces, was taken over by Adam Smith, a democrat senator, ulterior member of the Representatives Chamber. The politician proposed himself to reset the policies on nuclear weapons, together with Senator Elizabeth Warren, the initiator of a legislative proposal called No First Use.  The text of the proposal has one utterance: the US policy is not being the first to use nuclear weapons.

Is Mark Kelly, former colonel in US Navy and supporter of the guns control legislation, considering all of these when stating that he is skeptical regarding spatial force? Possibly.

Or maybe he was not concerned, but with the fact that the foundation of a new department responsible with managing some threats the Air Force is already taking care of, would not but increase Defence Department’s bureaucracy, already bureaucratic?

Or maybe it is not but a gesture which is part of the current electoral campaign, Mark Kelly announcing his intention to run, on Democratic Party’s side, for John McCain’s position in the Senate?