Michael Krepon’s op-ed on potential conflict between spacefaring superpowers
April 01, 2014
Waiting for Trouble
The United States and China have no experience and no agreements to avoid or defuse incidents in space or at sea, where both countries are flexing their military capabilities. In contrast, during the Cold War, Washington and Moscow employed many channels of communication to avoid misunderstandings, increase transparency and reach agreements to cooperate as well as compete.
If the United States and the Soviet Union could manage to avoid warfare in these domains - despite an intense ideological and geopolitical competition, severe crises and proxy wars, as well as nuclear arms and space races - then Washington and Beijing could too. So far, however, neither capital has made this a priority.
Internal deliberations were heated in both the United States and the Soviet Union at the outset of strategic arms negotiations, and opening gambits were far apart. Critics of nuclear arms control in the United States argued that interagency bargaining weakened Washington's leverage. Soviet military negotiators had different qualms, initially objecting when the U.S. delegation discussed "secret" data that their civilian counterparts weren't cleared to hear.