GERMANY’S NEW SPY SATELLITES: ENTER ELON MUSKFebruary 24, 2018
In last Thursday's News and Views from the Nefarium, I pointed out that the EU is heading into rough waters, and that in my opinion it will not survive in its current form, if it survives at all. Several factors have contributed to this, among them the immigration policies of Berlin and Brussels - that is to say, Mad Madam Merkel and the globaloney technocrats in Belgium - and the southern European social programs spending. It's easy to spend spend spend and pile up debt in, say, Greece or Spain (or Italy), when one can turn to Brussels (read, Berlin) to bail you out. The problem was, of course, Germany was not going to play that game, as we saw after the Greek crisis, and who can blame Germany for that? Those cracks were already evident when the old Exchange Rate Mechanism was converted to the Euro when France, after a decade of Mitterand socialism, applied to enter the mechanism, once again leaving Germany to bail everyone out. That crisis led to the creation of the current Eurozone we see today. (I detail that story in my book, The Third Way).
To put it "country simple," everyone simply kicked the can down the road.
Add to this Europe's and Germany's growing disillusionment with the unipolarism and interventionism of American foreign policy since 9/11, and one apprehends even more fissures appearing in the Euro-NATO complex. Indeed, over the past few years, perhaps even the past decade, I've been arguing that the pressures on the European powers to leave, or simply "side-step" NATO and waning American influence would eventually manifest itself in two, or possibly three, ways, none of them mutually exclusive. One solution was to create a common and integrated pan-European defense force. Both France and Germany for some years pushed for this, though in recent times France has increasingly balked at this solution, realizing that Germany would be once again in the driver's seat. Germany has in fact been pursuing this course on its own, integrating certain units of the Dutch and Czech militaries into the Bundeswehr command structure, while at the same time Mad Madam Merkel's government and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen have allowed the German military itself to deteriorate almost to the point of not being able to carry out any operations, which is to say, allowed it to deteriorate almost to the point of non-existence in a clever kind of "we pay, you fight" policy. The second solution was simply for Germany to rearm and dramatically expand its military. This appeared, at one point, to be a possibility, given former German foreign minister Frank Walther Steinmeir's speech a few years ago to the effect that Germany's foreign policy would inevitably be forced to become more "muscular" and "militaristic." Notably, Steinmeir is gone from the Foreign Ministry, and Merkel and von der Leyen remain. In a certain sense, given the fiasco of the immigration policies of Berlin and Brussels, and the fiasco that is the Eurozone with potential bailouts looming everywhere one turns, this option, for the moment, appears to be impractical. The third alternative would be some synthesis of the two.
In spite of all these pressures, Germany has been attempting to beef up its military, with debatable results. But it's not just its military that Germany is beefing up, according to this article shared by Ms. C.V. and Mr. G.B.:
A few paragraphs here manage to summarize the foreign policy, intelligence, and military pressures that have led the German Bundesnachrichtendienst to pursue its own spy satellite capability:
Germany plans to spend €400 million ($465 million) on two of the “latest-generation satellites” for its foreign intelligence service. The budget committee of the German parliament (Bundestag) already approved the financing of the costly project back in early November 2017.
The two reconnaissance satellites, which are now being constructed by the Bremen-based aerospace company OHB, are expected to be able to identify and capture images of objects as small as an A4 paper sheet. They are scheduled to be launched into orbit in 2022, where they will be able to keep an eye on “any place on Earth” within 24 hours, according to a “top secret” intelligence document obtained by Die Zeit.
The ambitious project is apparently aimed at making Berlin less dependent on Washington, as the German security services are said to rely heavily on satellite data provided by their US partners.
“The BND must be capable of obtaining information quickly and on autonomously in order to be able to provide independent up-to-date situation assessments,” Bruno Kahl, the head of the foreign intelligence service, told Die Zeit, justifying the need for the new satellites.
In the meantime, Berlin has rejected an idea of merging the expansive BND satellite program with a similar project from the German Army (Bundeswehr), which is now in the process of modernizing its own satellite arsenal, called the Synthetic Aperture Radar Altitude High or ‘SARah.’ The first new German military satellite is expected to be launched into space this year by US businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket.
What's the high octane speculation here? Over the short term, don't expect any drastic expansion of the German military until the situation in Europe stabilizes, and that's iffy with the looming Italian elections, and a short-to-mid-term possibility that whatever coalition government as might result in Italy could be replaced down the line by another. And in either case, as I indicated in last Thursday's News and Views, the possibility that any Italian governments might emerge without some involvement of the "Euro-skeptic" parties in Italy is ultimately a losing proposition. Similarly, as I've also pointed out before, Frau Merkel's own new coalition is very very weak, and indeed, may not survive. All of this does not indicate any immediate attention to the details of European much less German defense.
On the other hand, however, these satellites do indicate a long-term German commitment for a more independent course in defense and intelligence matters from the USA and indeed from the rest of Europe.
Which brings us to Elon Musk, for surely there are those in Germany who realize that entrusting spy satellites to the tender attentions of an American company contracted to launch them is to risk the very sort of "interference" that they are designed to circumvent. That interference could range from sabotaged launches, to more covert "modifications" of the satellites themselves. And that means that sooner or later Germany will realize, just as Japan did some time ago, that it must have its own independent heavy launch capability.
See you on the flip side...