The recent developments insideNATO and the willing of the US government to modernize its network of satellites have caused reactions from the Russian side. Those reactions emerged with the announcement in 2015 of the launch of a new space satellite program.
The “OKO” satellite program
The new satellite program cannot be examined without a mention to its predecessor, the “OKO” one. The space satellite program named “OKO” (eye) was developed into the decade of 1970 during the Cold War. The main target of the USSR was to create a network of an early warning system in case the Soviet soil was under attack by a ballistic missile. It was one of the several means of self-defense of the two protagonist belligerents, USA and Soviet Union.
In the decade of 1980, the first technical problems appeared. However, they were solved and the development of that network continued. In the beginning of the decade of 1990, the satellites with the new version of the “OKO” program were launched. This was an indicator that the Russian leadership believed that it was a very good project.
The program came to an end in the second decade of 2000. In 2010 the penultimate satellite was launched, while in 2012 the last satellite came to an orbit, marking the termination of the “OKO” program.
The “OKO” program was one of the most successful space satellites programs. It started in the decade of 1970 and ended in 2012. It was in implementation for almost 40 years. Its success is obvious from the numerous satellites that were launched, creating a safe net over the Soviet and, later, Russian sky. The sporadic malfunctions didn’t lead to the abandonment of the program.
The “EKS” program
Thought, the “OKO” program in the beginning of the 21th century was not effective any more. The technological development of the West in the space technology and the willing of Putin’s government, especially from 2008 onwards, to make Russia great again in international politics led to the launch of the “EKS” program.
The new satellite program was more advanced and it could combine all the new technology needed. Those satellites are capable of detecting the launch and the track of ballistic missiles even with nuclear heads from the outer space and from the earth. In addition, they can incorporate new radar systems. The completion of the program and the launch of the satellites would upgrade the Russian Anti-ballistic Defense connecting the data of the satellites to earth stations.
The first satellite was launched in autumn 2015, the second in May 2017 and the third in September 2019. Although there are no multiple information about this program, it can be said that it boosts the status of the Russian state and of its Armed Forces and there are no problems during its function.
A few days ago, the Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Staff, Valeri Gerashimov, stated during a meeting with other officers representing different countries that the military exercises NATO conducts near the Russian territory transmit a message of a wide war between the North Atlantic Organization and Russia. Also, he mentioned that until 2022 other satellitesof the “EKS” program are going to be launched . The target of the Russian government, as it seems from the declarations of Mr. Gerashimov is to create an advanced Unified Space System counterbalancing the corresponding of the US.
Is the “EKS” program a threat for NATO?
The mentioned space satellite program although it seems a threat, it is not really such for the West. Its role is clearly defensive. Russians point that. It is a part of the new space race concerning the satellite technology between USA and Russia. Russia fears the actions of the US governments and tries to protect itself.
It is not a threat for NATO as well. Russia has other programs and weapons much more dangerous for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization than the satellites of the “EKS” program. Moreover, the Russian leadership is decisive at its political designs, as it seems from the engagement in the South Ossetia War, the emergence as an important factor in the Eastern Mediterranean and the invasion in Ukraine.
The fact that the “EKS” program is not a threat does not mean that NATO members should relax. The North Atlantic alliance should organize itself and observe very carefully this new program. It is another sign of the enhancement of the Russian military power and it should be taken into consideration.
Russia is in a state of rearmament. Putin’s vision of a strong and “global” Russia is implemented. The protection from threats of all the places (space, earth, air, sea) is necessary and the new space programs achieve at that. The jeopardy of the ballistic missiles is present and Russia tries to protect itself.
On the one hand, we can conclude that this satellite program is not dangerous for NATO. On the other hand, NATO should examine the Russian movements and strengthen itself. This program gives Russia the chance to build other, more advanced satellites which could spy all the NATO installations in Europe. NATO should be discreet and move forward with no fear in order to protect itself and its members.