BRUSSELS: NATO aims to recognise space as a domain of warfare this year, four senior diplomats said, partly to show U.S. President Donald Trump that the alliance is relevant and adapting to new threats after he signed off on the creation of a U.S. Space Force.
The decision, set to be taken at a Dec. 3-4 leaders summit in London that Trump is due to attend, would formally acknowledge that battles can be waged not only on land, in the air, at sea and on computer networks, but also in space.
“There’s agreement that we should make space a domain and the London summit is the best place to make it official,” said one senior NATO diplomat involved in the discussions, although cautioning that technical policy work was still underway.
NATO diplomats deny the alliance would be on a war footing in space, but say declaring it a domain would begin a debate over whether NATO should eventually use space weapons that can shut down enemy missiles and air defences or destroy satellites.
The decision to declare space a new frontier for defence may help convince Trump that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation can be a useful ally in deterring China’s rise as a rival military power, the diplomats said.
While NATO countries today own 65% of satellites in space, China envisions massive constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking missiles and armed forces on the ground.
China is developing weapons it could use in orbit and became the first country to land on the far side of the moon last year.
Russia, once a strategic partner for NATO but now viewed by many allies as a hostile power, is also a force in space and is one of the few countries able to launch satellites into orbit.
“You can have warfare exclusively in space, but whoever controls space also controls what happens on land, on the sea and in the air,” said Jamie Shea, a former NATO official and now an analyst at Friends of Europe think-tank in Brussels.