ORIENTAL SATELLITE KILLER: CASE NO.1 (PART 3)


31.01.07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov)

Had a Bit of Fun? Time to Stop ...
Is there anyone who can honestly say that he had never committed mischief as a child? I don’t think such a paragon of virtue would be easy to find.
But my mind refuses to accept the verdict of Major-General Vyacheslav Fateyev, a Russian military expert, who described the recent Chinese tests of anti-satellite weapons as an “act of hooliganism.”
Early hints of the upcoming tests appeared in the central Chinese press last August. Experts from the state defense university, writing in the Renmin Ribao newspaper, said that the People’s Liberation Army of China should be ready not only to protect the country’s territorial integrity, but also to fight any potential threat from space.
It is out of the question that the Chinese watchdog agencies suffered a lapse and allowed someone to update the national defense doctrine, which dealt only with operations inside the home territory.
So it seems likely that the January 11 incident had nothing to do with U.S. space initiatives – the national space policy and the January space operations doctrine. Beijing has long been playing a lone hand in space, little concerned with what others may think.
Rather, hooliganism is the operative word in describing some provisions of the American documents, in particular sections dealing with domination in space and keeping “undesirable elements” out. But this is akin to a road prank by a billionaire actor. If there is no serious damage done, the popular idol has nothing to worry about.
But the “accident” did take place – China was the first to suit the action to the word, although it did no harm, it seems, apart from a strong ricochet effect on Russia.
If we take a closer look at the “parties to the traffic accident,” the first two – China and the U.S. – have in fact benefited from it, profiting from insurance, so to speak.
The former, possessing impressive physical potential, has handily demonstrated its ability to undertake all kinds of space initiatives and a full spectrum of military programs, including anti-missile defense. Besides, Beijing will now be much more selective in its choice of partners.
The Americans, for their part, will now be implementing any space weapons programs with a clear conscience, again showing little regard for anybody else.
Despite the risk of being branded as unpatriotic, I will venture to say that it is not possible to talk of Russia’s independent space effort in all areas at once. Moscow has to look to the East and to the West. This balancing act with an eastern prop has given Moscow more leeway in dealing with the Americans: Russia’s standing partners in the ISS manned program.
Current close cooperation with China on the existing 38 projects, plus 20 or so in the future, is unlikely to improve the strained Russian-American relations in space. The Russian defense minister appears to have acted wisely saying, to everybody’s surprise, that the Chinese tests “had no anti-satellite backbone.”
It was just petty hooliganism in orbit.

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