NATO: Pentagon’s loyal partner for space, star and cyber warfare
February is just another month for NATO’s Allied Air Command, and though the shortest is already full of news of preparations for war in new domains: the cybersphere, space and the exoatmosphere.
On February 2 General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations in the U.S. Space Force, visited the NATO Space Centre in Ramstein, Germany (where United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa is also headquartered). According to a NATO press release on the occasion, the head of U.S. Space Operations went to the NATO Space Centre to “discuss enhancing collaboration in this vital domain” and to engage in “dialogue between NATO and the U.S. Space Force…to better enable the Alliance to integrate space capabilities into missions and operations….”
In December of 2019 NATO declared space “a fifth operational domain.”
The NATO Space Centre was approved by a meeting of the military bloc’s thirty defense chiefs in October of 2020.
Additionally the release cites General Jeffrey Harrigian, also an American, who is commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command: “Working closely with all Allies, including our U.S. Space Force colleagues, is fundamental to the 360˚ deterrence and defence of the Euro-Atlantic area.”
The Deterrence and Defence posture of NATO updated on its website on November 20 of last year is not at all ambiguous in regard to which chief adversary it is preparing for space war against. The document accentuates the following:
“Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, challenge the Alliance and are undermining Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order. Russia has become more assertive with its illegal annexation of Crimea, the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, its military build-up close to NATO’s borders, its hybrid actions, including disinformation campaigns, and its malicious cyber activities.”
The new NATO Space Centre, as well as its missile defense and cyber warfare centers, will coordinate the activities of individual centers in respective NATO member states (“fuse information from multiple national space centres”) and conduct various exercises with those members.
At the end of last month NATO’s Allied Air Command hosted the initial phase of the alliance’s Steadfast Armour 2021 anti-ballistic missile exercise with the participation of NATO Maritime Command, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE).
According to Brigadier General Andrew Hansen, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Allied Air Command – also an American – the exercise “focused on working with various NATO and US headquarters around Europe to plan and execute the NATO BMD mission defending against ballistic missiles attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.” By which one is safe in assuming he means outside NATO territory.
Vice Admiral Gene Black, Commander STRIKFORNATO and Commander U.S. Sixth Fleet – yet another American – quoted in the same release that included the above citation, said this:
“The integration of US and NATO commands, along with further improvements of the command and control systems, advances the capability and effectiveness of NATO BMD. STAR-21 marks a key milestone in the continuing U.S. European Phased Adaptive Approach and NATO Missile Defense program.”
The European Phased Adaptive Approach, initiated by the Barack Obama administration in 2009, consists of Standard Missile-3 Block IIA exoatmospheric anti-ballistic missiles currently deployed in Romania and soon to be so in Poland and missile defense radar systems such as the Army/Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance (AN/TPY-2) currently deployed in Turkey and Israel, with a range of almost 3,000 miles.
In 2018 NATO announced that its cyber warfare command center at its military headquarters (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) in Mons, Belgium will be fully operational by 2023. At that time Major General Wolfgang Renner, German Air Force commander, told Reuters: “We have to be prepared, to be able to execute operations in cyberspace. We have already gone beyond protection and prevention.” That is, NATO is prepared to launch offensive actions in cyber space, a new warfighting domain, the fifth battlefield.
The NATO Communication and Information Agency identified Russia, China and North Korea as the three targets of its projected beyond-protection-and-prevention plans.
Reuters, reporting on the above, raises disturbing possibilities:
“NATO has formally recognized cyberspace as a new frontier in defense, along with land, air and sea, meaning battles could henceforth be waged on computer networks.
“The center could potentially use cyber weapons that can knock out enemy missiles or air defenses, or destroy foes’ computer networks….
“That is now the subject of intense debate at NATO, with alliance commanders saying publicly that cyber will be an integral part of future warfare but allies unclear what would trigger NATO’s Article 5 (collective defense) clause.”
When Estonia accused Russia of conducting cyber attacks in is nation in 2007, prominent American officials advocated the use of NATO’s Article 5 collective war clause as a response to reported cyber attacks in Estonia or elsewhere.
Virtual war can seamlessly escalate into kinetic war. Nuclear war.