Thursday, February 21

A reason to test

The US has finally shot down its disabled spy satellite.

Over the last few days there has been a lot of discussion about the real motive behind the decision to shoot it down. Many, including Russia argued that shooting down the spy satellite was a pretext for the US to test its anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities. While this was consistently denied by Washington, there is enough reason to believe otherwise. Nukes of Hazard had two interesting and indept posts (here and here) discussing why shooting the satellite was not a good policy decision, and how US history belies its claims of innocent intentions. The Arms Control Wonk also carried some number crunching by Tim Gulden of the risk from the debris of the satellite.

Robert Gates' reaction to the shooting down does not leave a very good taste for me either. While what he says is true and it would be good to see China and US cooperate, Bush's missile defense policy continues to make me uncomfortable. China and Russia recently proposed a pact limiting anti-satellite weapons which the Bush government is opposed to. The concern over space debris is also not to be overlooked. When China shot down its aging weather satellite last year the international community criticized it for creating space debris and also testing ASAT capabilities. Now China is doing the same in reacting to the US. With these two countries laying the foundations, no country with capability need pay heed to any criticism and go searching for pretexts to test.

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