Friday, October 22, 2004

Time to behave like adults?

On 11 October last, there was an important conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London, on the "Future of Transatlantic Military Space Relations".

The purpose of the conference was "to examine trends in US and European military space development against the background of US, EU and NATO force transformations", to which effect a number of high power speakers were present.

An indication of how importantly this subject is now treated is indicated by quite how "high powered" these speakers were. They included Robert S. Dickman, Deputy for Military Space, US Department of Defense; Luc Tytgat, Head of Space Unit, European Commission; Major General C. Robert Kehler, Director, National Security Space Office, US Department of Defense; Gerhard Brauer, Head of Security Office, European Space Agency; and Major General Michael A. Hamel, Commander 14th Air Force, USAF Space Command.

Central to the discussions was the EU’s Galileo satellite positioning system, and the possibility that it could be used by potential and actual enemies of the US, in providing weapons targeting data and command and control systems. Central to the debate is whether the EU has the ability to – and/or is prepared to – shut down the system, or exclude particular users, in the event of an international crisis or actual hostilities.

These issues have been rehearsed previously in the Blog and I am indebted to Dominic Cummings of New Frontiers for his brief report of the proceedings – circulated today - which is highly disturbing, to say the least.

It appears that EU delegates admitted that they would not be prepared to turn off Galileo, even if it was being used militarily in conflicts with US, accepting therefore that the US could end up facing enemies using Galileo without any intervention by the EU.

What is equally disturbing was the US response, at the conference, with representatives politely pointing out that, if faced with this threat, that the US would "take whatever action it felt appropriate". There was a preference for "reversible" action (i.e., jamming), but, if necessary, "irreversible" action could be taken.

Private sources have told this Blog that the US is working on "killer satellites" and the inference is obvious – that the US would not stop short of destroying EU satellites if their interests were threatened.

This really is quite an incredible situation, with the EU and the British government still arguing publicly that Galileo is a civilian system, where privately, it is readily admitting that the system has significant military applications and is intended to underwrite the European Common Defence and Security Policy.

Yesterday, there was a debate in the Commons on defence, and one might have thought that this issue might have been raised, but perhaps that was too much to ask. Predictably, MPs were side tracked by the Black Watch deployment on Iraq and, what was generally a low-grade debate, nothing of this importance was even considered.

On a day also when the costs of MPs was heavily publicised (£118,000 each), one can only observe that, on their performance yesterday, they could hardly be said to be worth what they are costing us.

But it also has to be said – as we have observed before – that the Eurosceptic movement is letting itself down badly.

There can be few things more important, both in absolute terms, and in terms of national identity and the ability to run an independent foreign policy, yet the excitement of the morning – to judge by e-mails on the Eurosceptic discussion groups – was the confrontation, aired on the today programme - between Damian Hockney and Nigel Farage on the Kilroy bid for the leadership of UKIP.

Given also the silence of the media on strategic defence issues, my earlier piece headed "sleepwalking into disaster" is looking ever more prescient. It is time those in Eurosceptic movement woke up to what is happening, and started behaving like adults – or is that too much to ask?

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