On Friday France's defense minister lashed out at Moscow in an usual accusation, saying a Russian satellite "with big ears" got so close to a French satellite last year that it could mean nothing but a clear attempt to eavesdrop.
Defense Minister Florence Parly accused Russia of attempting to sweep up French military secrets in what she likened to a "Star Wars" type move far above Earth. She identified that the Russian satellite, named Louch-Olymp, approached its own, the Athena-Fidus (which was co-launched by Italy in 2014), in an act of military espionage.
The Athena-Fidus is a French-Italian joint satellite reportedly used for secure military communications and the planning of operations.
“Trying to listen to one’s neighbor is not only unfriendly. It’s called an act of espionage,” Parly charged in a speech in the southern city of Toulouse on Friday. “It got close. A bit too close. So close that one really could believe that it was trying to capture our communications,” she said.
Her comments grabbed global media attention after likening the incident to events in the movie Star Wars: “this little Stars Wars didn’t happen a long time ago in a galaxy far away. It happened a year ago, 36,000 kilometers above our heads,” she said.
Parly further explained that the Russian satellite has “big ears” and is “well-known but a bit indiscreet.” She added that France had taken “the necessary measures” and is still monitoring the Russian satellite closely.
However, it's curious that while slamming Russia over the "close encounter" and crafting her words as media soundbites by using pop-culture references at the Toulouse-based France space agency conference, Defense Minister Parly is preparing to pitch a new space defense strategy by the end of the year, which no doubt will require a massively expanded budget.
And referencing President Trump's controversial and massively expensive plan for an American "Space Force" unveiled this summer, Parly affirmed “France is and will be a space power”.
She said she considers the new White House plans as an “extremely powerful signal: the signal of confrontations to come, the signal of the weight of the space sector, the signal of tomorrow’s challenges.”
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Meanwhile, hundreds of miles above the Earth...