The next cold war: The coming fight for territory in space

The asteroid Eros is one of many near Earth asteroid that could become a mine.
The asteroid 433 Eros is one of many near Earth asteroids that could become a mine.
Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a while since I wrote about the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Space Act of 2015, but after some delay the Senate has passed the latter. It will go back the House of Representatives now before before the president signs it, which will probably be Obama.

This law is a step towards mining in space, on asteroids for example. It probably won’t happen for a long time yet, but we might be getting closer to another kind of space race and possibly conflicts. The key word is national interests. Most powerful countries will get involved if they have interests to defend. The Outer Space Treaty says that states can’t make claims to territory in Space, but it’s very vague about private ownership. I think we in the future could see state involvement because there is private involvement.

The North and South Pole are also regions where we don’t have international laws suited for the new situation (when the ice is gone). I can see governments getting involved because they have “interests” to defend. Many are talking about renewable resources today because we have exhausted many of the non-renewable resources on Earth (except for the poles), but these new territories have a lot of opportunities for enormous benefits. This is something politicians should focus on today so that the coming generations won’t have to deal with a new and much worse arms and space race.The problem is that influential countries like the USA, Russia, China, Britain and Germany may not feel it’s in their interest to allow weaker countries access to what they can defend.

Norway has a lot of territory it is probably going to lose. The authorities annexed Queen Maud Land (2, 700, 000 km² in Antarctica) in 1939 and the Svalbard Treaty gave Norway sovereignty over the island Svalbard , also called Spitsbergen. When it’s worth owning these territories I think it’ll be harder for Norway and other small countries to defend their interests. We may express noble motives about promoting democracy in Latin America and the Middle East, but everything is about power, and imagine the reward for the countries that win these territories.

It’s common among politicians to state that they will defend their interests, or if they don’t have any interests to defend, they will state that as the reason why they won’t get involved. When Ashton Carter, chief executive officer of the Department of Defense (USA), recently said that he vows to defend US interests and allies against Russian aggression, it doesn’t mean they want to promote democracy and fair trade. Interests means that they aim to “ensure the security and well-being of Americans and the strength and competitiveness of the U.S. economy.”

This may make some people feel critical to the United States, but this seems to be how the world is run. This is politics at the same time as countries doing it say it’s a bad thing when the enemy has the same agenda. The USA recently criticized Russia for defending their own interests and thus risking world peace. We may think that politics is about world peace, freedom of religion and speech, and promoting democracy, but it’s all about power. This is the core of the conflicts between Semitic people as well. It’s about controlling people. That’s what we don’t seem to understand when we meddle in the Middle East.

I believe our two poles and of course near space could become the stage for some serious conflicts in the future,  and this is probably not as distant as you might think.

Senate vote to legalize space mining

The development of US foreign and defense policy

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