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Space without Weapons

The world now relies on outer space for important security and development purposes such as meteorology, environmental monitoring and disaster prevention, communications, education, entertainment and treaty verification.

There are already a number of international treaties and instruments with jurisdiction over space activities, but they do not adequately cover the challenges posed by space-based weapons and missile defence. Though some prohibit or restrict the deployment of weapons or use of force in outer space, the provisions are limited in scope and coverage. None of the existing legal instruments unequivocally prevents the testing, deployment and use of weapons other than nuclear, chemical and biological, in outer space. Nor does any relevant legal instrument cover the use of force or threat of use of force against a country's assets in outer space. The placement of nuclear weapons in space is prohibited under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, but nuclear-warheads on missile defence interceptors launched from the ground into space are not prohibited.

Following the Bush administration's policies aimed at space domination and control, the Obama administration is committed to support a ban in weapons in space. The collision of two satellites in February 2009, creating an estimated 10,000 pieces of debris, highlighted the need for 'rules of the road' of some form of code of conduct for space.

US missile defence though is still on the agenda, and although President Obama has emphasised the need for any missile defence system to be "proven and cost effective" - conditions widely interpreted as putting missile defence at a lower priority than it was for the Bush administration - plans for a US missile defence system continue to be laid. In 2010, a US decision not to put missile defence bases in Poland and the Czech Republic was replaced by alternative plans involving Romania and Bulgaria. The plans are exacerbating US-Russia relations and in April 2011, having long argued for a shared approach in developing missile defences, Russia stated its desire for dual control over a future missile defence shield. The US subsequently came under domestic pressure to discount the possibility, whilst Russia warned that in the absence of an acceptable cooperation agreement, it would increase its nuclear stockpile, thereby reneging on New START.

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Europe's Space Policies and their relevance to the EU's Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)

The following study, written by Rebecca Johnson on behalf of the Acronym Institute and ISIS-Europe, with research assistance from Stephen Pullinger and Aline Dewaele, was commissioned in 2006 by the European Parliament Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union.

"The study analyses Europe's space programmes and argues for an effective European Space Policy to manage the civil-military interface and national-regional interests to enable Europe to benefit from a more effective coordination of technologies and assets for the purpose of enhancing European and international security, while preventing destabilising developments, such as the testing, deployment or use of anti-satellite weapons or weapons in and from space.

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