In the following interview for Strategic Culture Foundation, American Professor Karl Grossman warns that the Trump administration is recklessly pushing ahead with long-held US plans to militarize outer space. This is in spite of a UN treaty banning such a development.
Grossman says the weaponization of space is essential to US imperialist ambitions for “full spectrum dominance” over the entire planet. He also contends that the US enterprise will unleash a new arms race with Russia and China, thereby gravely undermining global security and greatly increasing the risk of a nuclear war.
Much of the US space weaponization program, he says, can be traced back to the post-Second World War years when former Nazi rocket scientists were employed by Washington to continue the Third Reich’s military programs.
Grossman debunks oft-repeated claims made by US politicians that Russia and China are advancing their own space weaponry. Indeed, he points out, both Moscow and Beijing are on the record over many years calling for the US to desist from violating the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The Space Force plan being rolled out by the Trump administration is largely being done without the US public’s knowledge or consent.
Karl Grossman’s biography includes being a full Professor of Journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. He is also a film-maker, author and renowned international expert on space weaponization, having addressed UN conferences and other forums on the subject. He is a founding director (in 1992) of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. Grossman is author of the ground-breaking book, ‘Weapons in Space’.
Question: The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) currently going through the US Congress this month makes provision for the establishment of a Space Force as an entirely separate branch of the armed forces. Is the Trump administration moving ahead with plans to weaponize outer space in ways that far exceed similar plans seen under previous administrations, such as Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and his “Star Wars” initiative?
Karl Grossman: It is along the lines of US military space strategy that has been developing for decades. It is important, I believe, to note that much of this started with the arrival of former Nazi scientists – many of whom worked on the V2 rocket program, such as Werner von Braun – to the US after World War Two. At the Army arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, they produced a modified V2 renamed the Redstone, the first US missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.
Former General Walter Dornberger, who supervised work on the V2, was hired as a consultant to the US Air Force in 1947 and, notes the book ‘Arming the Heavens’ by State University of New York Professor Jack Manno, Dornberger “wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He projected a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable of reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).” Manno also writes: “Before a congressional hearing in 1958, Dornberger insisted that America’s top space priority ought to be to ‘conquer, occupy, keep and utilize space between the Earth and the moon.’”
The “Star Wars” scheme of President Ronald Reagan represented a full-blown plan by the US for the weaponization of space – despite, importantly, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which declares space a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes.
In my book, ‘Weapons in Space’, I quote from various US military documents, such as the US Space Command’s ‘Vision for 2020’, its multi-colored cover depicting a laser weapon shooting a laser beam down from space zapping a target below. This report, issued in 1996, proclaims the US Space Command’s mission of “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.”
So important, too, ‘Vision for 2020’ compares the US effort to control space and the Earth below to how centuries ago “nations built navies to protect their commercial interests,” how the great empires of Europe ruled the waves and thus the world.
As General Joseph Ashy, then commander in chief of the US Space Command, put it in 1996 in the trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology: “It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen. Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but – absolutely – we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space.”
As to Trump, the preposterous US president now, as National Public Radio reported this August, the Space Force notion “started as a joke.” Reported NPR correspondent Claudia Grisales in a report titled, ‘With Congressional Blessing, Space Force Is Closer to Launch’ – “Early last year President Trump riffed on an idea he called ‘Space Force’ before a crowd of Marines in San Diego. It drew laughs, but the moment was a breakthrough for a plan that had languished for nearly 20 years.”
She continued: “‘I said maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the ‘Space Force,’ Trump said at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in March 2018. ‘And I [Trump] was not really serious. Then I said, ‘What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.’”
The space program currently of Trump and the US military will ultimately, I’d project, resemble the “Star Wars” architecture – orbiting battle platforms with on-board nuclear reactors providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons. (“Without reactors in orbit,” as former “Star Wars” commander General James Abrahamson, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, there would need to be “a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weaponry.
Question: Presumably, the Space Force sought by President Trump is an irrevocable move. Once it is established, it will be a permanent
branch of the US armed services, which will not be disestablished by
Karl Grossman: Once established, it could theoretically be disestablished – but with government, as conservatives like to complain, correctly, once an office is set up, once a department is created, a vested interested is established. An entity is formed which seeks to perpetuate itself. Further, places where components of the Space Force would be based would lobby to retain them. Moreover, because of the partnership in the US of the military and powerful aerospace contractors, these corporations with their huge clout – and government contracts – would also lobby (and utilize campaign contributions to politicians) to keep a Space Force and its components permanent.
Question: The whole dynamic of weaponizing outer space by successive US governments appears to violate the 1967 UN-ratified Outer Space Treaty. From a legal point of view, is what the Trump administration and Congress doing – setting up a Space Force – blatantly illegal?
Karl Grossman: What is being done might not now be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty – but it certainly is a violation of the intent of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. As Craig Eisendrath, who had been a US State Department officer involved in the treaty’s creation, notes in my TV documentary ‘Star Wars Returns’, after the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.” Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, it entered into force in 1967. Put together by the US, the then Soviet Union and Britain, it has been ratified or signed by 123 countries. It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”
As I say, to be expected with a Space Force would be – as they were planned for Reagan’s “Star Wars” – the placement of hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons in space. Depending on at what they are aimed, these come close – if they are not exactly – to being “weapons of mass destruction.”
Then there is the space-based “Rods From God” weapons plan of the US Air Force. As this article is headlined: “These Air Force Rods From God Could Hit With The Force Of A Nuclear Weapon”.
So, yes, it can be anticipated that space-based “weapons of mass destruction” would be positioned in space – in outright violation of the Outer Space Treaty.
Question: American politicians who advocate for making “space an operational domain” for the US military claim that their nation is losing ground to advances in this domain allegedly made by Russia and China. Yet Russia and China have consistently called for the banning of space weaponization. Are American claims false or are Russia and China secretly developing space weapons in violation of the Outer Space Treaty?
Karl Grossman: The Trump administration and the US military have been claiming that a Space Force is necessary because of Russia and China moving into space militarily but, in fact, Russia and China – as well as Canada – have been leaders for decades in pushing for an expansion of the Outer Space Treaty. The treaty bans weapons of mass destruction in space and the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty, which the three nations above have sought, would prohibit the placement of any weapons in space.
The US – under both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations – has opposed the PAROS treaty and effectively vetoed its enactment at the United Nations.
I’ve been at the UN and watched as the representative of my country, the United States, has cast this veto vote. It is an outrage.
Question: What kind of weapons is the US endeavoring to deploy in space?
Karl Grossman: That has not been specified yet but, as I say, they would most likely be hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons – and “Rods From God.”
Question: Do you think it is technologically feasible to create and deploy such weapons?
Karl Grossman: Yes, it is technologically feasible, unfortunately.
Question: What do you think are the motives behind the US plan to weaponize space? To assert its presumption of global power over Russia and China by way of Washington being able to intimidate these perceived geopolitical rivals?
Karl Grossman: Yes, exactly. The US, in numerous military documents, has through the years – and now – spoken of “full spectrum dominance” over the Earth, seizing the “ultimate high ground” and from space being able to control the Earth below.
As Trump has declared: “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”
American dominance in space! One country dominating space!
Question: Presumably, the Pentagon and US military-industrial complex view the venture into space militarism as a huge source of financial profits. Is the weaponization of space driven by corporate
Karl Grossman: It is a partnership of the military, aerospace contractors which are corporate giants – and Trump.
Question: Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Russia will not be dragged into another arms race with the US as existed during the Cold War decades. But will Russia and China be forced to also match US developments in pursuit of space weapons, thereby unleashing a vicious cycle of arms race?
Karl Grossman: Yes, Russia and China – and other countries – will respond in kind to the US seeking to achieve “American dominance in space.”
And they don’t want to have to do this. I vividly recall sitting at a table with Chinese diplomats at the UN in Geneva a number of years ago – after I keynoted a conference on the threat of weaponization of space – and the Chinese diplomats speaking about how they want to feed, educate, house their nation of more than a billion people, not waste billions in an arms race in space. My presentation earlier was followed at that conference by the Chinese ambassador to the UN who emphasized how his nation sought to keep space for peace.
Incidentally, on my way walking to the UN on that visit, on the street I came upon the US ambassador to the UN who had been at my presentation – watching me with daggers in his eyes. A diplomat, however, he conversed cordially to me on the street and when I spoke about Russia and China following us in kind, he declared that Russia “doesn’t have” the money to compete with the US military in space and China was “30 years behind” in terms of space ability. I told him this was so wrong. I told him of having visited the Space Museum in Moscow – and seeing a “parallel” universe to the US documenting Russian space prowess, and said his judgement regarding China couldn’t be more incorrect.
Russia and China don’t want to do it, I am convinced, but if the US weaponizes space – they’ll be up there, too, with space weaponry. And the heavens will be turned into a war zone. And if war breaks out, with nuclear-powered battle platforms up there and exchanges between battle platforms, debris, much of it radioactive, will be raining down, vast swathes on Earth will be devastated, huge numbers of people would die – the overall outcome would be apocalyptic.
We must keep space for peace – as the Outer Space Treaty has sought to do, and prevent this looming arms race in space.
Question: Do you see the latest, more earnest phase of US space
weaponization as part of a wider context of Washington undoing arms
controls treaties, such as the ABM and INF treaties?
Karl Grossman: Yes, the breaking of one treaty after another by the GW Bush and Trump administrations goes along with Trump’s scheme of having American “dominance” of space.
Question: Is the US attempt to weaponize space a grave concern for global peace?
Karl Grossman: Yes, it is of grave concern. The turning of the heavens into an arena of conflict will have a gigantic impact on the vision of global peace.
Bringing the scourge of war from Earth up to the heavens will be a huge historical calamity.
Question: How might this US flouting of international law regarding the Outer Space Treaty be halted? The American public seem to be
indifferent or unaware of the dangers?
Karl Grossman: At the UN and before other international organizations, there must be strong – very strong – opposition to the US scheme to turn space into a war zone. Moreover, there needs to be strong – very strong – action at the grassroots. The international group in the lead challenging this US space military madness is the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. I urge people to connect with this group. The address of its website is here. And folks should become active in it.
As to indifference and lack of awareness, it’s not just the American public but most US public officials. For example, the US House of Representatives a few days ago passed a military policy bill – providing for $738 billion in military spending and approving the Trump scheme for a Space Force.
The vote for what is titled the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020 was 377 to 48. Some 189 Republicans and 188 Democrats voted for it. Six Republican House members voted against the bill along with 41 Democrats and one independent.
The large Democratic “yes” vote came as a result of a trade-off – for 12 weeks of paid parental leave for civilian federal employees. A New York Times’ article said Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, was pivotal. “It was Mr Kushner who helped broker a deal to create the Space Force, a chief priority of the president’s, in exchange for the paid parental leave, a measure championed by his wife, Ivanka Trump, also a senior advisor to the president,” said The Times.
This was a pivotal vote, as the US Senate will now consider the measure and pass it considering the Trump-controlled majority in the Senate, and Trump will sign it.
A trade-off of giving the OK for a US Space Force in return for paid parental leave for government employees – something common throughout the world. What a trade-off!
Moreover, if one asks Americans about the PAROS treaty and the push by Russia and China and our neighbor Canada for its expanding the Outer Space Treaty and banning of all weapons in space, if one in 10,000 American citizens are aware of this, that would surprise me. The ratio would be better among US public officials but still most would not be aware. Hence the baloney that the US must arm the heavens because of Russia and China is being believed.
Thus the US is pushing the world headlong toward unparalleled disaster.