Control agreements on space weapons and other arms
Throughout human history, technological advances have given rise again and again to new weapons systems. And, very often, the new developments have led to a discussion on how such weapons can be limited and prohibited, i.e. on arms control and disarmament. This occurred in response to the crossbow in the Middle Ages, the submarine after World War I or the atom bomb after 1945. Although it has rarely proved possible to ban the new weaponry, agreements between states have more often at least succeeded in containing their proliferation. After land, water and air, space became a focus for military use in the 1950s, driven by the rivalry between the nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. But right from the start, research into military uses was accompanied by efforts to control arms in space. In response to new technological capabilities, such as the potential development of “killer satellites” and other anti-satellite weapons, growing importance has been attached to the conversation on the need to agree space arms control for the 21st century. Moreover, as advanced technologies give rise to other novel weapons, proposals for limitations and bans have emerged here, too. There is particular concern about unmanned military systems such as combat drones, vehicles and robots. Since these technologies, just like space weapons, are still in their infancy, what is at stake here is primarily “preventive” arms control.