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Without functioning satellites, our communications are limited, our banking systems are out of order, our gas pumps are empty and directions to the nearest grocery store are no longer a click away. Points that may seem small, but on a larger scale, knocked out banking systems and non-functioning navigation systems can have devastating consequences for a country's security.
I recently attended the People and Defense (Folk & Försvar) course in Leadership and Security. During the day, I thought a lot about the role space plays in our security policy right now and also had the chance to ask the question to experts on the ground. Dr. Hans-Christian Hagman, Head of Analysis at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, response showed that it is clear that satellites and space play a vital role in today's security situation.
Satellites are an asset
Space is an asset for our security policy. With constant monitoring of satellites, it is no longer possible to distort the truth to the same extent. For example, we can follow the war in Ukraine directly and see how troops move. Access to satellites has changed warfare and it is clear that satellites are an asset for Sweden's security policy.
During the day, Peder Ohlsson, the Swedish Defense Forces' director of communications and former stf. naval commander, talked about the importance of leadership and different approaches that exist in today's warfare. Something that made me especially worried is how dependent our society is on access to the internet and electricity. He emphasized that an effective way to weaken a country is through non-linear attacks, for example by knocking out a country's access to electricity or access to satellites.
A new infrastructure
A report from the Defense and Research Institute concludes that we have a new type of infrastructure – satellite networks. This new infrastructure is developed every day, mainly by private actors. Companies like SpaceX, OneWeb and LeoSat are developing satellite internet that will revolutionize society. More people than ever will in the near future have access to the internet, a fact that will support people in the third world and give them access to information and not least the possibility of communication. This infrastructure will transform both military and civilian operations and foster new thinking and innovation, a conclusion FOI makes in the report.
Is space a new arena for war?
Something that worries me is the balance between government and private companies in space. On the one hand, authorities like ESA and NASA have an obligation to publish all data open to the public, but on the other hand, authorities are limited by laws and regulations, and we must also not forget that great powers like China and Russia are not in favor of democracy and freedom of expression. But if we look back in history, to when the printing press revolutionized society, there is an important conclusion to draw. Although there is an opportunity for everyone to express their opinions, in the long run freedom of speech will benefit diversity and democracy.
Space is important for security policy
This new infrastructure offers many possibilities that did not exist before. With the satellite-internet, the gap between the Third World and the West can be reduced, more children can have access to education and it becomes more difficult for dictatorships to distort the truth.
Space is important for our security policy and a clear access for democracy and freedom of expression, and we must take care of that together.