by Andrew Taylor
This post is part of the student blogger project from the summer session of Space Security Law.
Andrew Taylor is currently a law student at the University of Mississippi. He is pursuing a certificate in Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law.
On 12 February 2008 Sergey Larov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, introduced the draft of the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT). This draft was prepared jointly by Russia and China.1 The objective of the PPWT is to prohibit using space as a weapons platform and to also prevent the threat or use of force against space based objects.2 Generally, most people would agree with these twin aims. Trying to limit armed conflict in space would be in the best interest of all (except where space weapons provide a strategic advantage to States involved in armed conflict of course). Armed conflict in space creates the possibility of interrupting everyday tasks that we take for granted, such as using GPS to guide our cars or knocking out our satellite TV signals. Those problems are on an individual level and the tip of the iceberg. At the State level, bringing space weapons into play would only create more tension between states and the possibility of another arms race.3
Generally, the PPWT would go a long way to trying to keep space weapons free. However, there is one area where the PPWT is lacking. It is lacking in the area of regulation of Earth to space based weapons. While the PPWT attempts to prevent the placement of weapons in space, it only applies a clause to Earth based weapons that prevents the use or threat of force to space based assets. The PPWT does nothing to prevent the creation, development, testing, storing, etc. of Earth to space based weapons. Without measures to prevent the creation of these types of weapons, there remains the possibility that these will be developed and used whenever a State feels it’s necessary to break from the treaty.
The PPWT can be stronger in the area of conventional Earth to Space based weapons. The portion about Earth to space weapons should be more akin to the ban of space weapons themselves. By making this area stronger the PPWT there would be more certainty of keeping space weapon free. However, this certainty comes at a price, as most States would not want to sign a treaty that takes away even more of their strategic assets. However, it would be easier, relatively, to verify whether these types of weapons were being built and thus States would not have as many problems signing onto this portion of the PPWT. Essentially it would try to keep the Earth to space arms race limited to as few weapons as possible.
While the PPWT has the capacity to help keep space weapon free, or at least weapon limited, it could also incorporate clauses that limit Earth based space weapons as well.
1 Victor Vasiliev, “The Draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, The Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects,” Security in Space: The Next Generation-Conference Report, 31 March-1 April 2008, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2008, pg. 145.
2 Id. at 146