When Americans think Europe, it's green parties and granola, not death from above. But a recent think tank report accuses the European Space Agency of plotting to use its Galileo satellite and other space programs to dominate the "high ground" of space.
The paper raises concerns about the "creeping militarization" of space and the potential for an inter-NATO arms race in the name of "EU security." It also highlights the roles played by the European military-industrial complex.
"EU-financed communication and spy satellites are slowly becoming reality and in the long term the inclusion of space-based missile defence and other more offensive uses of space are real options for an increasingly ambitious EU military space policy," the Transnational Institute, a Dutch think tank ("a worldwide fellowship of committed scholar-activists"), charged in a report titled From Venus to Mars.
Galileo was designed to end dependence on America's Global Positioning System, which is controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense -- an agency that also has a final say in who gets to play with it. Galileo was initially pitched as a civilian project -- an economic stimulator, with the promise of 150,000 new jobs and billions in contracts for European companies.
That's smoke, according to the report's author, Frank Slijper. "While Galileo is generally presented as a genuinely civilian programme, it now appears highly militarized," he said.
Galileo could allow European armies to independently deploy GPS-guided munitions similar to those currently used by the U.S. and risks becoming the navigation system for European wars of intervention. (Videos)
"The public denial of these important capabilities shows how much Brussels and many European capitals are afraid to tell the public that Galileo is to become an extremely important tool in future warfare by European military forces," Slijper wrote.
On the other hand, proponents say the redundancy provided by Galileo and its global navigation system is a good thing, and an indispensable element of EU infrastructure -- one that need not be entrusted to third parties, ally or not.