Thecriminally irresponsible Russian test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon could have destroyed or seriously damaged the International Space Station (ISS) and killed Russian Cosmonauts as well as the American and German astronauts.
But this was predictable, a risk that Putin was willing to take in order to help scare the U.S. and Ukraine into submission. He knew what happens when you smash together two satellites in a crowded orbit.
In July, Putin issued a revanchist statement arguing for seizing Ukraine as well as Poland and Lithuania. Such a war for Ukraine, or a Chinese war for Taiwan may start with destroying U.S. military and commercial satellites to blind our response and make GPS-guided weapons useless.
China similarly and recklessly tested their ASAT weapon in 2007, creating an incredible cloud of destructive space particles--essentially bullets that could perhaps damage or destroy their new military-led space station.
The lesson is that both Russia and China may be willing to sacrifice--for all humanity--future access to space for their immediate goals of military conquest and global domination. Both countries may also be willing to start nuclear wars to serve their ends--potentially destroying life on earth or vast portions of it. Any war today would at the first moments involve destroying U.S. satellites, making orbital space unusable for centuries or longer, absent presently-unknown technologies to remove billions of bullet-like particles from various orbital levels.
It may not be 'popular' or comfortable to hear this, but the nature of dictators has not changed throughout history.
Those are the stakes as Xi and Putin gear up for their intended wars of conquest in this decade.
The Kremlin backed up their potentially-lethal show of force with a threat to destroy all U.S. GPS satellites. The rubble from their demonstration remains potentially-lethal, as the hundreds of thousands of large and tiny pieces will continue to threaten the space station and anything in low earth orbit for years or decades.
Many in the 'space community' throughout the free world find the concept of militarizing space abhorrent, as they should. "Can't we all get along," they wonder. "Can't we have the aggressors sign or obey treaties?" Certainly international pressure is essential to get Russia and China to de-escalate, however treaties are the wrong way to go.
Treaties 'are made to be broken' in the minds of dictators; treaties only tie the hands of the free nations, just like gun control laws only disarm the peaceful and leave families helpless to stop armed criminals. Worse though, treaties lull to sleep the free world into believing that no country would militarize space or would risk destroying all access to space for present-day military gains. The ASAT tests by Russia and China should dispel that myth to careful observers.
The history of reckless military conquests that create only ultimate defeat and destruction does not apparently faze today's dictators. Each is blinded by the allure of victory that they have certainty they will gain. For example, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany simultaneously declared war on the United States, each assured of victory in their own minds, yet both nations were utterly defeated and devastated.
Who would buy Russian oil and gas or Chinese products in a post-war depression or societal collapse? Again, these considerations of their own economies collapsing are dim in the minds of those fantasizing about the world at last under their exclusive domination.
In the present era of American military weakness and an absence of strong leaders here and among some of our allies, we invite a space 'Pearl Harbor" as a prelude to Chinese and Russian wars of conquest. In such wars, the United States may well be defeated, but our current weakness may lower the nuclear threshold, engulfing the world in a nuclear holocaust.
All who want to go to Mars and the Moon, or even to visit or live in earth orbit should raise the alarm that access to space is endangered by the reckless ASAT tests by both Russia and China, and their known plans for a space Pearl Harbor that in fact would destroy access to orbital space for centuries.