The 2008 Russia/China proposal for a treaty to ban weapons in space: A missed opportunity or an opening gambit?

Steven Freeland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionResearchpeer-review


Events during the early months of 2008 have highlighted further the dangers of an arms race in space. At an important disarmament conference in Geneva, Russia and China jointly submitted their latest proposal for a Treaty banning the placement of weapons in outer space. This came only days before the United States deliberately destroyed one of its own satellites, ostensibly to minimize the risk of highly dangerous pollutant falling on the earth. This action was criticized by both Russia and China, who alleged that it was simply a 'test' by the United States of its missile defence shield capability. A few days later, China announced that it proposed to increase its military spending by almost 20% in 2008, this following a report from the United States voicing concerns about China's advances in space weapons technology. It is in this context that this paper seeks to examine the latest Russia/China draft Treaty, and analyze its provisions within the broader framework of the major Space Treaties, the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions aimed at the 'Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space' and the strong desire of the broader international community for increased measures designed to promote greater transparency and confidence-building in relation to the use and exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes. This paper concludes that, although the draft Treaty has significant weaknesses, it is imperative that all space faring nations, as well as the wider community, engage as a matter of urgency in good faith negotiations and discussions aimed at finalizing a more comprehensive legal regime banning the use of any weapons in outer space. In this regard, the draft Treaty represents another step in the negotiation process and is thus an important instrument for reflection.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication59th International Astronautical Congress 2008 (IAC 2008)
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of a meeting held 29 September - 3 October 2008, Glasgow, Scotland
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes
Event59th International Astronautical Congress 2008, IAC 2008 - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Sept 20083 Oct 2008


Conference59th International Astronautical Congress 2008, IAC 2008
Abbreviated titleIAC
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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