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War in space?

Posted by Richard Sunday, October 31, 2004

While the front page of The Sunday Telegraph flags up two stories of vital public interest, one on John Peel’s final interview and the other about Beckham being set to move to Chelsea, buried in the Booker column as his third story is the account of "a fascinating row" that has broken out over the increasingly bitter hostility between the USA and the EU over their rival satellite positioning systems: America's GPS and Galileo, based on the 30 satellites the EU plans to have in space by 2008.

Booker is referring back to a story published in The Business last week which reported that the US was prepared to blast EU satellites out of the sky if they were used by hostile powers – an issue we dealt with in the Booker column last July, when my pamphlet on the political and military implications of the system was published by the Bruges Group - a story which has been greeted by a storm of denials.

However, Allister Heath, who wrote last week's The Business story, has come back strongly this week in a comment and analysis piece headed "US threatens to take space war to a third dimension".

Thirty-five years after Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, he writes, the world is sleepwalking into a new multi-billion dollar space race – this time with the European Union (EU) and China working together in a bid to wrest control of space from America. Echoing my own belief, Heath continues:

The implications are hard to exaggerate: America's position as the world's only hyperpower is under attack, Nato will be consigned to history and the global economy put under huge strain. Bizarrely, however, few realise what is happening - and the British and European foreign policy establishments are always on hand to deny that anything untoward is going on.
What follows is a masterful exposition of the issues, with Heath concluding that there is little that can be done to stop this new arms race. Galileo will proceed as planned, as will China's involvement, and the US will gradually develop a new space arsenal.

"The biggest scandal of all, however," he adds, "is the complete absence of any public debate on such an important issue - especially in the UK, which is a full member of Galileo. Does the British government know what it is doing?"

It is that absence of debate which is most worrying. The media have been given ample information on this issue but apart from Booker and now Allister Heath, there has been virtual silence, Beckham being far more interesting than such a minor issue.

Nevertheless, as Booker reports in his column, this week, during Thursday’s debate on defence procurement in the House of Commons, Gerald Howarth MP, the Tory spokesman, will attempt to get our own government at last to come clean as to what Galileo is really about. But what’s the betting that the media ignore this debate as well?

Be assured, though – we will not.