Lasers and Space as Czech contributions to NATO, EU

  • Petr Boháček a Jakub Kufčák
  • 17.10.2018 11:57

Strong NATO through strong Europe
The transatlantic rift has, together with other factors, pushed the EU to move
towards developing industrial, political and defense autonomy. This trend does not
pose a structural dilution of transatlantic relations. On the contrary, it will make
Europe a more equal and able partner to the US, strengthen the Alliance in the
long term and make the Transatlantic relationship more resilient against future
political turbulence. This will, however, require adjustments to relations between
the EU and NATO. Partial steps with regard to military mobility and structural
change with regard to the defense industry could together build resilience against
short-term disagreements in transatlantic relations.

Utilizing untapped innovative potential within the Transatlantic
community is key since the technological and strategic power of Western rivals no
longer stems from a mere imitation and import of foreign technology but more and
more from domestic innovations. Bolstering the European industrial and
the technological base is crucial for European countries to become reliable NATO

A more systemic link between NATO and the EU in the military mobility
area is a net security gain since the swift movement of units across Europe is critical
for a credible deterrence policy of the Alliance. But the EU is the sole actor that has
the legislative, regulatory and policy tools needed to address this agenda that
encompasses local, national and supranational actors and various ministries within
governments. Linking the EU`s trans-European transport network TEN-T and
European funds with military mobility needs on NATO's part would
significantly contribute to the Alliance's operability.

However, military mobility is not the sole factor for an effective
deterrence policy on the Eastern NATO flank. Technological capabilities to mitigate
local Russian military dominance, e.g. in the Baltics, are also crucial. Russian A2/AD
capabilities that are a central piece of this dominance are at the same time
dependent on satellite communications. Developing capabilities enabling the
disruption of SatCom would strengthen deterrence vis-à-vis possible Russian
escalation. Apart from cyber or electromagnetic tools, there are also non-kinetic
ways to disrupt these systems. Lasers can be used to temporarily dazzle electrooptical
sensors on satellites. Lasers also don't create cosmic debris; their effects
can be only temporary and their attribution to a specific actor is complicated.
Development of these capabilities, however, is hampered by the fact that
NATO just recently (at the July Brussels summit) established its space policy. Before
Brussels, this agenda was addressed within NATO`s Science and Technology
Organization (STO). In its January 2018 report, the STO highlighted the dependency
of the Alliance`s military capabilities on SatCom and the necessity of its protection
against China and Russia who are developing their own anti-satellite capabilities.
Here too the EU can contribute to NATO`s strength.

The European Galileo and Copernicus programs have, apart from their
primary civilian use, also security and defense potential. E.g. the system for
monitoring orbital debris can be used to track ballistic missiles or as a European
successor for NATO`s AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) capability. Copernicus' radar interferometry can be utilized to effectively monitor
transport infrastructure damage on a European scale. The Galileo navigation
system has an in-build secure and encrypted Public Regulated Service (PRS) that
was designed for defense use.

Although specific data or operational capabilities developed within the EU
cannot be directly accessible to all NATO members, the final product and valuable
information can. Just like specific US capabilities for orbital monitoring that are not
operationally in the hands of European countries but relevant information is shared
within the cooperation framework that is based on mutual complementarity. The
EU or the US can be exclusive owners of certain capabilities that can at the same
time benefit the whole transatlantic community.

A more intensive debate should be therefore led over synchronization
of space activities and cooperation among NATO member countries but also
between the EU and NATO. Our collective capacity for action depends on it. 

Europeanization of the defense industry and space activities as Czech contributions
to collective defense
The Czech Republic should not buy into the bilateralization of transatlantic
relations under the pressure of US unilateralism and try to impress its US partners
e.g. by moving the Czech embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while breaking the EU
policy consensus. The goal of the Czech Republic should not be to flatter the Trump
administration at any cost but to be active in forming the European consensus in
areas like the defense industry generally and space policy specifically. With an
emphasis on space policy the Czech Republic can contribute to the strengthening of
European industry and also to NATO's deterrence policy by improving military
mobility and technological capabilities.

With regard to the defense industry, the Czech Republic`s interest is to
involve its small and medium businesses in Western European supply chains but
also to continue technological cooperation with the US. This way the national
defense industry can be maintained and survive in a competitive market
dominated by large industrial groups. Purchasing European armaments is,
therefore, a logical step to link Czech companies with the European defense
industry, an effective use of money and a way to strengthen European defense
capabilities. The Czech Republic should pursue an armaments policy balanced vis-àvis
European autonomous French and Transatlantic nationalist Polish positions.
The Czech Republic also needs to start to balance its strong linkage to the
British (through Sweden) and Israeli armaments industry since these do not
contribute as far as possible to the European industrial and technological base.

Space-related capabilities should be systematically developed and become a part of the defense planning policy and a national space plan

The Czech Republic can contribute to NATO space capabilities thanks to
the fact that Prague hosts the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency
(GSA). The growing EU space agenda could be managed under the GSA`s expanded
mandate, a step supported by the Czech government. The Czech Republic should utilize this potential to the fullest not only within domestic industrial, technological
and scientific developments but also on the international scale and pursue an active
space policy.

Further, in the technological realm, the Czech Republic can make use of the
high-tech laser center (ELI Beams) in Dolni Brezany. These lasers not only have
large civilian economic potential (e. g. asteroid mining) but also cross-over into the
military sphere (e. g. the already mentioned A2/AD satellite dazzling, or asteroid
defense). Defense against anti-satellite technologies should be prioritized. The
Czech Ministry of transport even identified anti-satellite technologies as one of the
risks for the security of national transport systems. All these space-related
capabilities should be systematically developed and become a part of the defense
planning policy and a national space plan.

Given the lack of political will for significant increases in defense
expenditures, the Czech Republic has to contribute to NATO capabilities in other
areas. This paper suggests that one of these areas can be space policy and the related
agenda since this area has on average six times return on investment across
different sectors. Building up a unique know-how that has a broad application in
civilian and defense policy as well as the right way to become good allies to our
partners in the Transatlantic community. Developing specific national niche areas is
a way to become more relevant internationally.

Prague needs to actively look for such solutions to shape its own future and not merely seek guarantees from Washington or Brussels.

We can do more than just hope to meet our
A well-functioning NATO and a strong Europe are the best guarantees for the
protection of Czech interests. History tells us that the Czech Republic ought to be a
reliable ally that strengthens NATO`s power and unity and contributes above the
minimal required commitments. Prague needs to actively look for such solutions
to shape its own future and not merely seek guarantees from Washington or
Brussels. However, the Czech Republic currently lacks the political will to increase
the defense budget to the 2% NATO guideline and doubts persist over whether
major planned military equipment acquisitions can be carried out in the near future.
Although the Czech Republic is committing more soldiers to foreign deployments,
the capacity to contribute to collective defense is stagnating.
In such a situation the Czech Republic must prioritize and search for a
niche area that brings greater benefits to its allies and is politically feasible. At the
same time, this area should be in line with Czech interests in the Alliance -
especially the defense of the Eastern flank - and should address some of the
structural problems of the Transatlantic community - in particular the lack of
technological capabilities on the European side. What meets these criteria is linking
defense policy with innovative laser and space technologies and space-focused
activities. This can make a significant contribution to military mobility or reduction
of Russian A2/AD capabilities in the Baltic region and thereby enhance the security
of NATO's Eastern flank.

The first part of the paper focusing on space assets can be found here.This paper was prepared for the Association for International Affairs with the support of  Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Its full original version can be found here.

About author: Petr Boháček a Jakub Kufčák


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