So much for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization... though we might note that when it previously bombed Belgrade, assisted in the occupation of Afghanistan, and toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, any sense or concern for overstepping its mandate or 'mission creep' was clearly lost altogether.
As if seeking expansion into Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and potentially the Caucuses were not enough, now the Cold War military alliance is eyeing expansion into space. This is the focus of the following new report — not in The Onion but in Bloomberg — entitled, 'NATO Is Poised to Expand Its Remit to Include Outer Space' which introduces:
NATO intends to make space an “operational domain” along with air, land, sea and cyber, according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The move, to be approved at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Wednesday, would bring all five areas within the scope of the alliance’s collective-defense commitment and comes as member countries seek to address fresh internal political splits.
Stoltenberg described to reporters on Tuesday: “Space is of great importance for our civilian societies and for any military operation,” and described space expansion as 'essential,' saying further: “It’s about communications, it’s about navigation, it’s about data imagery. Space is essential for almost everything we do.”
So now Article 5 will be invoked to defend a NATO member's claim to a chunk of the moon, or Mars? Again, the NATO chief didn't just describe the prospect as an interesting project or avenue for future potential, but as "essential". NATO ministers have over the past year been discussing a an overarching future space policy, so it's nothing new; however, the suggestion that it's now essential to the mission might come as a surprise to member states.
Despite deep cracks in the alliance, especially after it's second largest military controversially invaded northern Syria last month, and following charged statements earlier this month by France's Emmanuel Macron to The Economist wherein he described NATO as suffering "brain death", it appears Stoltenberg is exploring new domains to keep the alliance relevant.
This also comes after Trump's longtime pressure for European capitals to increase defense spending, shouldering more of the burden.
All of this suggests Macron had it right in his controversial prior remarks to the British weekly magazine: “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.” It's also worth recalling that he had even questioned the Article Five collective defense guarantee when pressed on the issue: “I don’t know,” he answered.
Again, Stoltenberg's new space comments suggest an alliance in desperate search of new missions on new frontiers. More via Bloomberg:
“We need more European efforts on defense, but not as an alternative, not as something that is replacing NATO,” Stoltenberg said.
He called NATO’s plan to integrate space into the alliance’s operations a “defensive” step, saying it would be a “clear sign that we continue to strengthen our deterrence and defense.”
Though as the report notes, "Stoltenberg said NATO has no intention of putting weapons in space." But how else will NATO theoretically exercises "deterrence and defense" in outer space?
As NATO foreign ministers meet on Wednesday in Brussels to consider a range of issues, it'll be interesting to see if Stoltenberg's space comments gain any further traction or are seriously taken up.