Donald Trump announced the creation of a Space Force last summer. The US President assumes that Space will become a “war fighting domain,” and there is at least some support for his assumption. For instance, in 2007, China tested its ability to destroy operational satellites by targeting a derelict satellite with a ground-based missile, creating more than 35,000 pieces of debris larger than one centimetre, all of which pose severe threats to other satellites and spacecraft. Yet since then all countries, including China, have refrained from testing anti-satellite weapons in ways that could create more debris. There is, in fact, a remarkable amount of cooperation in Space, with the International Space Station being just the most prominent example. There is also a great deal of cooperation in the Arctic, with Russia and Western states working closely together on search and rescue, fisheries management, and scientific research. This lecture explores the reasons for such cooperation, pointing out that the Arctic and Space are both remote regions with extreme environments, both suffer from “tragedies of the commons,” and both are militarized but not substantially weaponized.
Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia. His work focuses on Outer Space, the Arctic, climate change, armed conflict, and Canadian foreign and defence policy. Dr. Byers has been a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Professor of Law at Duke University. He has also taught as a visiting professor at the Universities of Cape Town, Tel Aviv, Nord (Norway) and Novosibirsk (Russia). Dr. Byers is the author, most recently, of International Law and the Arctic (Cambridge University Press), which won the 2013 Donner Prize. He is a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail newspaper.