When the Pentagon’s think tank, the RAND corporation, publishes a study it’s worth paying attention. Remarkable in their prescience, RAND reports accurately predicted the Ukraine war and the Iraq war.
Consider, for instance, their recent study of what Chinese and Russian primary sources had to say about 10 key events in the U.S. space program 1985-2011. The authors described how the U.S. had others on the planet riled up by
the establishment of the U.S. Space Force in 2019, and multiple policy and warfighting documents have rapidly followed. Given this activity and the concerns raised in domestic and international fora[sic] regarding the increasingly congested and contested nature of space, there has been surprisingly little open-source analysis of Chinese and Russian perceptions of these developments. [emphasis mine]
Findings included that neither Russia nor China appears to believe U.S. space programs are not military in nature (no kidding), and that the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in 2002 was viewed by both as a turning point after which a more aggressive stance was evident
Here’s the list of all the events for which reactions were collected:
• Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (1983) and U.S. Space Command creation (1985)
• President Bill Clinton’s National Space Policy (1996)
• Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) test (1997)
• Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and
Organization (“Rumsfeld Commission”) (2001)
• U.S. withdrawal from Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (2002)
• U.S. Air Force (USAF) Counterspace Operations doctrine (2004)
• President George W. Bush’s National Space Policy (2006)
• Operation Burnt Frost (2008)
• President Barack Obama’s National Security Space Policy (2011)
RAND also observed that Russia had more national pride invested in space technology and achievements, while China appeared to study Western space tech mostly with an eye to understanding it. They did not necessarily want to build something better themselves. However, China did successfully shoot down their own satellite recently after the U.S. did so in 2008.
The authors appeared to believe it was harder for Americans to understand Chinese nuance and societal expectations than Russian attitudes. For instance, some of the events on their list of 10 were little noted at all in Chinese publications they surveyed, while other events not on the list received significant attention in “native-language primary sources, such as..government publications, military journals, academic reports, and domestic media.”
RAND also appeared to be setting up conditions for further curtailments of free speech in the U.S. and Europe as there were multiple references to China and Russia taking note of Western voices critical of their own countrys’ space programs.
Draconian anti-protest laws just passed in the UK are a harbinger, no doubt, as the declining West struggles to manage the narrative.
From the What’s Happening feed on my Twitter account this morning:
A report from 2000 may be of interest too. With it looking like Taiwan could become the next Ukraine, maybe I’ll find time to read RAND’s Dire Strait: Military Aspects of the China-Taiwan Confrontation and Options for U.S. Policy.