Although Russia has stood up space oriented branches of their armed forces on no fewer than three separate occasions, some Russian officials don’t seem aware of their nation’s defensive orbital efforts.
Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, responded to President Trump’s recent call for the establishment of a Space Force branch of the U.S. military with a series of suppositions about just what such a branch might do if and when it’s been established. The scope of these allegations, ranging from plans to put nuclear weapons in space to establishing military bases on the moon, not only depicts a lack of understanding in the realm of orbital defense, but seems to indicate that the head of the Defense Council doesn’t seem to know what one Russia’s own military branches has been up to since its establishment in 2015. You’d suspect he’d be aware, since he oversaw the Nation’s Air Force prior to his role as a Senator.
“Militarization of space is a way to disaster,” Bondarev told RT, a media outlet that is registered in the United States as a formal agent of the Russian government. He went on to postulate that such a force would, if established, probably violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that bars the use or even testing of weapons of mass destruction in space. It’s worth noting, of course, that no one on either side of the American Space Force debate has thus far proposed putting nukes in orbit. Bondarev said,
“There is a major risk that the Americans would commit grave violations in this field … if one takes into account what they do in other spheres. Of course, let’s hope that the American political elite still has the remnants of reason and common sense, but if the US withdraws from the 1967 treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space, then, of course, not only ours, but also other states will be followed by a tough response aimed at ensuring world security.”
Concerns about the militarization of space via the establishment of a space specific branch have, of course, been levied within the United States as well, though primarily by those who are unaware of China and Russia’s space branches of their own military or the U.S. Air Force Space Command that continues to man their metaphorical orbital post as plans for a Space Force continue to develop. America’s global defense infrastructure has long relied on orbital assets for everything from navigation to communications, and specialized reconnaissance satellites have been in use for decades — including those currently employed to identify and track launched ballistic missiles for the purposes of nuclear defense.
Despite warning the United States that “Militarization of space is a way to disaster,” Russia first made space a military endeavor way back in 1967 when they stood up the Troops of Anti-Missile and Anti-Space Defence, nor would they have reorganized their orbital military endeavors into the Ministry of Defence Space Units in 1982, now would they have established the Russian Space Forces in August of 1992 shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Assuming those decisions were all made in a simpler time, back before Russia fully appreciated the dangers of militarizing space, they likely would have known better in 2015, when they first stood up the latest incarnation of Russian Aerospace Forces – one of the nations’ three branches of military.
If President Trump’s directive to establish a space branch of the military comes to fruition, it will likely take some time. The logistical challenges of establishing an entirely new branch of the armed forces coupled with the standard bureaucracy associated with any political endeavor will ensure debate about a Space Force will rage on for months or years, both domestically and internationally, but let there be no mistake: A Space Force won’t militarize space — it has been militarized for decades.