The Politics of Space Security: Strategic Restraint and the Pursuit of National Interests

By James Clay Moltz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Dynamics of Space Security
Existing Explanations

The concept of national security describes the relationship between a country’s capabilities and the challenges posed by the surroundings in which it must operate. When a country is secure, it enjoys the ability to conduct its activities free from harm. Although we normally view security as reliant solely on military power, it is also influenced by a variety of other factors: alliances, economic strength, treaty memberships, political stance (such as declared neutrality), social cohesion, and even perceived moral authority.

In space, the attainment of security involves the task of overcoming both man-made and natural threats, given the extreme hostility of the space environment. Since orbital dynamics require a certain level of interaction with other actors, the behavior of all space-faring entities (states, companies, universities, private citizens, and international consortia) inevitably affects the security of others, more so than in other realms. In general, we can define “space security” as the ability to place and operate assets outside the Earth’s atmosphere without external interference, damage, or destruction. By this definition, all actors have enjoyed a high level of space security for most of the space age, with very few exceptions, as will be discussed later. Unfortunately, challenges to space security are increasing today, particularly as space becomes more crowded. Arguably, at least three policy alternatives exist: (1) space actors can assume the worst and prepare for eventual warfare; (2) they can hedge their bets with weapons research and begin efforts at better coordination and conflict avoidance; or (3) they can reject military options altogether and heighten their efforts to build new cooperative mechanisms for developing space jointly.

During the Cold War, the behavior of the Soviet Union and the United States dominated space security considerations. These two sides conducted well more than 95 percent of space activities during the Cold War. Although Russian activ

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