Space imperialism: Germany and France enter into competition for the Moon

MOSCOW, 10 Jan 2022, RUSSTRAT Institute.

Paris and Berlin have expressed disagreement with Washington on another issue. This time we are talking about space exploration.

According to POLITICO, the two leading European countries are dragging their feet with the signing of the “Artemis Accords”, which the Americans insist on. Although in November 2021, during a visit to Paris by US Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to express his readiness to join this document, which sets standards and rules for the exploration of the Moon and outer space.

As the RUSSTRAT Institute wrote earlier, on October 13, 2020, the American Space Agency (NASA) organised an online signing ceremony of the “Artemis Accords”. Seven other countries joined the United States – Australia, Britain, Canada, Italy, the UAE, Luxembourg and Japan. The members of the alliance agreed to conduct the extraction and use of resources in strict accordance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

But there is a nuance. The “Artemis Accords” states that if any country builds its own facility on the Moon, it automatically gets the right to deploy a security perimeter around it, access and the order of access to which it formulates independently. Up to the point of a refusal to do so. This was done with one simple goal – to privatise space by right of the pioneer.

Why do France and Germany refuse to play on the side of the Americans? Today there are two unions that claim to explore the moon: the alliance led by the United States and Russia-China. In early 2023, NASA plans to conduct a test unmanned flight of the Orion spacecraft. In 2024, a manned test flight with a flyby of the Moon is already planned, and in the second half of the decade – landing on the lunar surface.

On March 9, 2021, Moscow and Beijing announced that they plan to jointly build a station on the surface or in orbit of the Moon with an eye to the subsequent exploration of Mars. The development of a “roadmap” for the creation of an International Lunar Scientific Station for multidisciplinary work was announced.

The price of the issue is not only getting new knowledge about outer space. The moon is especially rich in helium-3, an extremely rare element on Earth. The peculiarity of this isotope is that it is an ideal fuel for nuclear fusion, which allows to produce a significant amount of energy without radioactive waste. Whoever owns helium-3 will be able to claim leadership in the nuclear field.

The latter is especially important for France, which is now fighting for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy of “green” investments of the European Union as part of the EU transition program to a carbon-free economy until 2050. As for Germany, which, on the contrary, is closing its nuclear power plants, it may pursue not so much economic as political goals.

If Paris is ready to act at the level of concluding an alliance with individual European countries, then Berlin wants to bring forward the European Space Agency (ESA). Germany is also making efforts to develop appropriate legislation at the level of the entire European Union. Niklas Nienass, a representative of the Green Party, said that he was going to seek the adoption of a law in the European Parliament that would prescribe rules for the extraction of resources in outer space.

Thus, Berlin is considering this issue from the point of view of even closer integration of the European Union and its determination to act as a whole, which creates problems for Luxembourg and Italy, which have already joined the “Artemis Accords”. It is possible that in the future Germany will begin to put pressure on the governments of these countries, hinting at the “desirability” of their refusal to cooperate with the Americans.

And this puts another problem on the EU agenda – the need to create a unified European military space force. After all, production facilities and settlements on the Moon will need to be protected, including from competitors. However, currently there are only the Russian Military Space Forces, the US Space Forces and the French Aerospace Forces.

At the same time, Washington openly says: “Space is clearly a battlefield, and we are convinced that if the containment policy fails, we will have to fight to win the battle for space superiority.”

The battle for space – economic and military – will inevitably affect the Earth. If Paris and Berlin eventually enter the lunar race, it will indicate their rivalry with the United States not only in space, but also in NATO, as well as other Western alliances. It is obvious that Washington wants to avoid this scenario by insisting on the accession of France and Germany to the “Artemis Accord”.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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