The Russians and Chinese adopted a constructive approach towards the prevention of an arms race in the outer space. In February 2008, China and Russia submitted to the CD a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects. The treaty bans placement of any type of weapons in outer space, but it allows for deployment of ground-, sea and air-based ASAT systems as an inherent right to self-defense embodied in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
The CD adopted a program of work in May 2009. It established a Working Group entitled “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” to discuss substantively all issues related to the prevention of an arms race in outer space. The review of recent proceedings of the CD reveals that the world is not likely to get a PAROS treaty in the near future. Though in February 2008, China and Russian Federation submitted a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, pessimism continues due to the United States naysayer attitude on PAROS at the CD despite President Barack Obama's pledge to seek a ban on space weapons in February 2009. Indeed, the world would have no PAROS treaty until US delegates in the CD seriously work for its draft.
The Americans ambition to preserve its military primacy in global politics and deploy credible missile defenses in the near future is the driving force for the invention of lethal space weapons and their deployment in the Space. The weaponization of space is both a natural progression from the aim of providing multi-tiered ballistic missile defenses, i.e. land, sea, air, with space as the fourth tier, also described as the ‘fourth medium of warfare’. In August 1996, General Joseph W. Ashy, Commander-in-Chief of US Space Command (CINCSPACE), said: “We're going to fight a war in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space...”
In January 2001, the Rumsfeld Space Commission ascribed orbital weapons significant importance that would provide the US with an extraordinary advantage in military conflicts. The Commission also came to the conclusion that it is a “virtual certainty” that there would be a military conflict in space in the future and urged America to pursue superior space capabilities. The National Space Policy issued by the Bush White House in 2006 states in part that the “United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space.”
President Obama’s departure from the space policy stance of former President George W. Bush, who rejected the notion of banning or limiting space weapons via treaty arrangements, was a positive development for the finalization of PAROS draft. Ironically, the Obama Administration failed to cap the Bush Administration’s space-weaponization program. For example, the product of Rumsfeld’s militaristic vision of space, the X-37B Unmanned Space Vehicle (USV) was placed in the orbit in April 2010. The strategic observers believe that X-37B may serve as a test-bed for space-based weapon technologies of the United States.
The debate in the CD since January 2011, however, is not encouraging for the PAROS treaty. The non-serious attitude of the United States towards PAROS reveals its inclination towards space weaponization. The Americans attempt to monopolize space for its military primacy definitely instigates its strategic competitors to revise their strategic doctrines. This action-reaction phenomenon would mature the states to conduct a fourth medium of warfare.
To conclude, the delegates in the CD have been paying a mere lip service to the constitution of the PAROS treaty. The absence of realistic arms control initiative to prevent space from weaponization or invention of fourth medium war-fighting capabilities would be perilous for the prevailing strategic stability in the global strategic environment.