The Russian invasion of Ukraine has catalyzed a slumbering West into action. Harsh rhetoric from Western capitals has combined with a steady stream of military aid to Ukraine’s gallant defenders. Yet, the risk of uncontrolled escalation between the United States and the Russian Federation is at an all-time high.
At a time when the world teeters on the brink of World War III and while Russia is constantly probing Western defenses looking for weaknesses to exploit, it is strange that the Biden Administration announced it would cease conducting any anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons tests in orbit. We were told by the supposedly brilliant people who staff the Biden Administration—including Vice-President Kamala Harris, who heads the White House Space Council—that America needs to unilaterally disarm in space to prevent any unwanted escalation in space between Moscow and Washington.
Moscow isn’t listening.
Joe Biden’s dangerously naïve move will have the opposite of its intended effect. Rather than de-escalating or preventing a space war from erupting between Russia and America, Biden’s decision will encourage a conflict in space—one the United States likely loses.
Testing ASAT weapons is one way to demonstrate resolve to defend one’s important satellite constellations in space. These tests are a signal to rival powers, especially Russia and China, that if they dare to attack our satellites, we can and will target theirs in kind.
In space the United States has the most to lose. America relies on satellites and easy access to space for both the American military and economy to function properly. The Russians understand this, which is why they have spent the last decade building an arsenal of “counterspace” weapons. These are weapons that can deny us access to space during a crisis, such as the current Ukraine conflict.
Angered by the consistent support for Ukraine’s military, Russia is looking for ways to win its war against its neighbor and discourage us from future involvement. So long as America and our NATO allies continue supporting Ukraine militarily, however, Moscow will have difficulty ending the war quickly and with the outcome they want. If Russia can disconnect Ukraine from its American support, though, the Russian military might have a chance at securing victory. So, targeting critical American infrastructure, such as U.S. satellite constellations, is one method Moscow may employ to accomplish its strategic objectives.
As Russian forces were amassing along the Russia-Ukraine border in November, a Russian ASAT missile arced up into low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and obliterated a derelict Soviet era satellite. The debris field the unannounced “test” generated nearly destroyed the International Space Station. While Moscow maintained it was merely testing its ASAT system and that the ISS—which was fully manned at the time both by American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts—was never in danger, the Russian military was actually sending a message to their American rivals: don’t mess with our invasion of Ukraine, otherwise you might lose more than you bargained for.
Despite having hectored the Russians for behaving irresponsibly with their ASAT test, the United States did little to respond. No in-kind ASAT test was announced. Fearful that the Russians may have the ability to not only critically damage American satellites but also create a debris field that may deny humanity access to key orbits around the Earth, we are led to believe that Washington is behaving responsibly.
Not so. Biden is abandoning a key tenet of deterrence—namely, instilling in your rival the fear that if they ever did threaten your strategically vital systems, then you will at least respond in-kind. Just as the Russian ASAT test in November sent a strong message that Moscow can do untold amounts of damage to us, we could have—should have—sent a similar message to Moscow with our own ASAT weapons test in orbit. Such a demonstration at least would have moved Vladimir Putin’s regime from the obvious temptation to hit us in space.
Whereas the Russians are thinking about space in strategic terms and plan to use it against their rivals, Biden and his national security team are unilaterally disarming the United States in the strategic high ground. They believe they are keeping tensions contained, preventing unwanted escalation in space that could compromise the security and accessibility of space for all of humanity by generating catastrophic debris fields that clog the orbits for generations to come.
But they are wrong.
Biden is making the United States more vulnerable to a Russian “Pearl Harbor”-style attack against essential U.S. satellites in part because he refuses to answer Russian provocations. Failing to respond in a timely manner invites the very escalation that Biden and his advisers believe they are avoiding.
It’s a shame to see decades of hard-earned American dominance in space surrendered on the altar of utopianism and naïveté. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it is the Biden Administration leaving America vulnerable in space as never before. As a U.S. senator in the 1980s, Biden idiotically supported the “nuclear freeze” movement, which sought to unilaterally disarm the United States by disbanding its nuclear arsenal in the face of what was then a rapid Soviet nuclear arms buildup. Biden foolishly believed that by unilaterally dismantling America’s nuclear arms, the Soviets would realize the United States meant them no harm and they would disarm, too.
The assumption was never grounded in reality. Had U.S. policymakers listened to Biden and the Left, we would have invited a massive attack by the Soviet Union. This is precisely why the KGB secretly funded the nuclear freeze movement.
It’s also why Biden’s decision to enact a unilateral moratorium on ASAT weapons tests is so dangerous for the United States today. If Putin was hesitant to attack U.S. satellites because of a potentially destructive American counterattack in orbit, he is now tempted to strike hard and fast against the Yanks in space.
Joe Biden truly is the most dangerous man to have ever been elected president.