A European Approach to Space Security

The Need for Better Awareness of the Strategic Character of Space

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Xavier Pasco
Reconsidering the Rules of Space

The multiplication of actors and objects in space in the near future will result in a sizable security risk that cannot be handled by the current collective agreements, and will not be avoided by purely military solutions. As such, a number of issues present a collective security challenge that may make the existing situation worse, both technically and legally, and may, in the very short term, put at risk any space asset, civilian or military. Thus, even from a purely defensive perspective, confidence-building measures (or “best practices”), far from being illusory, can prove more effective in the short and mid-term than an enhanced national military posture would be. As a consequence, the new collective rules, although initially based on voluntary political acceptance by all nations, will have to be conceived in such a way that potentially hostile or aggressive behaviors in space are rendered more difficult, more easily identifiable, and collectively reproved and sanctioned. Combining concrete technical and behavioral regulation with longer-term transparency and political agreements may open new possibilities for space regulation.

Europe may be ready to play a more active role in supporting this evolution because of its experience as a regional collective political and institutional construction with regular and sometimes difficult discussions on the balance between national and collective interests. Moreover, Europe’s approach to space security may demonstrate a common basis on which to stimulate and help shape international debate on the subject. This capability will mainly depend on the ability to act collectively in space, as in other foreign policy and defense arenas. As the current debates on the European Constitution show, considering Europe as a single political entity remains difficult. However, one hopes that the progress of this political construction will eventually make the “Old Continent” a dynamic and constructive party in a debate that will be crucial for building the peaceful and more secure international society of which we all dream.