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Title:   Early Report 10/22: U.S. LASER WEAPON TEST

Date:   19971022

Text:
FOREIGN MEDIA REACTION DAILY DIGEST USIA OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND MEDIA REACTION U.S. INFORMATION AGENCY, WASHINGTON, DC 20547 BILL RICHEY, BRANCH CHIEF MEDIA REACTION, (R/MR) TELE. No. (202)619-6511 ANN PINCUS, DIRECTOR

Wednesday, 22 October 1997

Early Report 10/22: U.S. LASER WEAPON TEST

Editors in Europe viewed with some degree of alarm the U.S. Army's successful test of a powerful laser--which hit a targeted satellite more than 260 miles from earth--last Friday. While they acknowledged that the test did not violate either the 1967 or 1972 treaties covering warfare in space, analysts nonetheless concluded that the U.S. had "crossed a new threshold" in the technological arms race. Brussels's independent Le Soir noted: "The Americans virtually have the power to blind or to destroy satellites in flight, and thereby to paralyze armies at war by depriving them of their eyes and of their ears. A frightening lead. This technological achievement reminds us that 'star wars' is not entirely dead." A number of writers expressed particular concern that the laser test might provide Russia with "an excuse" not to ratify its pending arms treaties with the U.S. As if to confirm those fears, Moscow's reformist Izvestia declared: "The test...won't help START II ratification in the Russian Duma."

EDITORS: Mildred Sola Neely and Kathleen J. Brahney

U.S. LASER WEAPON TEST: 'STAR WARS ALIVE AND WELL'?

BRITAIN: "Doing Nasty Things With Mirrors"

The liberal Guardian told its readers (10/22): "Star Wars is alive and well, even if there's no one to play with. Last Friday's test of a high-powered U.S. army laser was talked down by the Pentagon as a modest defensive measure.... The purpose of the exercise, it says, is simply to find out what other--potentially hostile--countries might do with a laser at their disposal.

"There is just one small problem with the Pentagon's rationale. The only power around, hostile or otherwise, in possession of lasers capable of such a performance happens to be...the United States of America.

Last week's laser test toes not violate the letter of either the 1967 or 1972 treaties covering space warfare, but the spirit is another matter. There is another lesson from the test just carried out. It shows according to the Pentagon, that low-intensity lasers could be used--and the technology is available to quite a few countries--to 'blind' the sensors on the U.S. satellites now in use. This raises a whole set of different issues about the ethical implications of such 'spying' and whether it should be internationalized. These must be resolved on the ground, not 260 miles high in the air."

FRANCE: "'Star Wars' Again?"

The U.S. launch of an anti-satellite laser led Laurent Zecchini in left-of-center Le Monde to make this commentary (10/22): "The United States has carefully chosen its words to describe the successful launching of its anti-satellite laser to avoid new international speculation about 'star wars.'... Who knows whether other nations will make use of this precedent to launch a race to develop anti-satellite weapons? Russia could...use this as an excuse not to ratify the (START) II treaty. It could even accuse the United States of violating the 1972 ABM treaty, even if Washington claims that this test does not violate any international agreement."

RUSSIA: "Lasers May Renew Arms Race"

Boris Vinogradov, commenting on a laser space weapon tested recently on an American earth satellite, pointed out in reformist Izvestia (10/22): "The test could just as well pose a threat to other countries' satellites. Military experiments with lasers are even more dangerous in that they can open a new round of the arms race. Today some 30 countries have similar capabilities. Besides, those tests won't help START II ratification in the Russian Duma."

BELGIUM: "Star Wars Has Come Down To Earth"

Pierre Lefevre wrote in independent Le Soir (10/22): "The United States has just achieved a first: Hitting an old military satellite orbiting at more than 400 kilometers from the earth with a powerful laser beam fired from the ground. It has thereby crossed a new threshold in the technological arms race. The Americans virtually have the power to blind or to destroy satellites in flight, and thereby to paralyze armies at war by depriving them of their eyes and of their ears. A frightening lead. This technological achievement reminds us that 'star wars' is not entirely dead....

"On Friday, the purpose was not to destroy the satellite but only to light it up to analyze its reactions. Incidentally, the U.S. administration denies that it intends to develop anti-satellite weapons. It says that it only wants to measure the vulnerability of its own satellites against blinding lasers whose technology is reportedly mastered by some thirty countries. This laser firing nevertheless breaks an international taboo: No one, so far, had carried out an experimental attack against a satellite. Although it was informed in advance of this experiment, Russia could take it badly. The Duma is already reluctant to ratify the Start II treaty. By trying too quickly to arm itself for the future space battlefields, the United States could lose the very peaceful means of getting rid of a few thousands of enemy nuclear warheads without firing a single shot."




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