Space Oddity or the New Normal? An Analysis of the Collective Security Agreement in Space

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By Victoria Jepson

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The significance of nuclear weapons on the political level plays a role in the acquisition of power and the capability to negotiate among other states. In addition, some would argue that the actual armament does not pose a greater threat than the motives of individuals and groups to acquire lethal weapons. The technological advancements and society’s curiosity concerning space affairs are naturally paralleled to military advancements and objectives. Recently, states have had to revaluate their nuclear strategy and the military uses of space in the wake of new space technologies. In 1967, during heightened tensions between the United States (US) and the Soviet Union, the Outer Space Treaty (OST) sought to preserve outer space for peaceful means by providing regulations of space activities in regards to military uses. However, the lack of inspection and the negation of mentioning whether states can put conventional weapons in orbit, send ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads through space, or deploy most types of anti-satellite weapons demonstrates why this initiative is not an example of a successful collective security initiative sufficiently deterring states to develop nuclear space weapons and raises questions around why so many countries signed the OST. Though not explicitly discussed, this treaty is the closest approximation in international arms control as it prohibits “the placing in earth’s orbit any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kind of weapons of mass destruction (WMD),” as well as their installation on celestial bodies or stationing them in space.

In light of this political conditionality, this paper will be assessing as to why the OST was signed and whether is demonstrates a successful collective security initiative. It will address the theoretical aspects of arms control influencing nations to partake in such negotiations and it will compare the motivations of the US and USSR in agreeing to de-nuclearize space. While other studies focus on the securitization or militarization of space as a discussion of arms control, this paper will argue that the current Outer Space Treaty does not solidify arms control expectations and that arms control will not be enough to keep outer space non-nuclear. This paper will be different from the other research on arms control as it will use theories against the efficacy of arms control in a framework of collective security in space.