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6 May, 2020 21:08

Trump’s draft ‘Artemis Accords’ for moon mining are the lunar version of ‘Scramble for Africa’

Trump’s draft ‘Artemis Accords’ for moon mining are the lunar version of ‘Scramble for Africa’

Mining the Moon sounds like a grand vision of the future, but the way the US reportedly proposes to go about it conjures some of the worst blunders in Earth’s history instead, from the 2003 Iraq War to 19th century colonialism.

As most of America is still stuck indoors cowering before the “invisible enemy” Covid-19, President Donald Trump’s administration seems to have set its sights on the stars. Mere hours after Reuters revealed the existence of a secret treaty to partition the Moon, the US Space Force released its first recruiting ad, telling prospective space cadets that their future on this planet may in fact be off-planet.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming bigly, and doing so during the pandemic-induced panic may help some people cope better – but wait, what is that part about carving up the Moon? That doesn’t sound starry-eyed at all, but rather sinister.

The ‘Artemis Accords’ are being drafted as a US-led treaty that would set a framework for future bases and commercial mining ventures on the Moon. They seek to define “safety zones” around bases and claims, ostensibly to prevent conflict between aspiring moon-miners.

“The idea is if you are going to be coming near someone’s operations, and they’ve declared safety zones around it, then you need to reach out to them in advance, consult and figure out how you can do that safely for everyone,” the anonymous source told Reuters.

Also on rt.com US to agree to PACT with ‘like-minded’ nations on space mining, ‘safety zones’ on Moon, sidelining Russia – report

It is not a territorial claim, the same source insisted – but while that may be technically true, in practice it’s a distinction without a difference. This is important because territorial claims are explicitly forbidden by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, of which the US is a signatory party. It also prohibits placing nuclear weapons in space and any militarization of the Moon, and says that space shall be free for exploration and use by all, with none allowed to claim sovereignty over any celestial body.

The US has long chafed at that last provision, with Congress passing a law in 2015 allowing American companies and individuals to mine the Moon and the asteroids. Just last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring that Washington does not regard space as “a global commons” and that Americans should have the right to its resources.

Of special concern is the reported US intent to circulate the Artemis treaty with only the “like-minded” countries – Canada, Japan, EU and even the United Arab Emirates have been mentioned – while excluding Russia, due to Pentagon objections. 

This has prompted the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, to point out that Trump is acting the same way George W. Bush did when he invaded Iraq, bypassing the UN and even NATO in favor of a “coalition of the willing.”

“The only thing that can come out of this is another Iraq or Afghanistan,” Rogozin said on Wednesday.

Likewise not addressed is the glaring absence of China, which has landed probes on the Moon in recent years – but has also been embroiled in a Cold War of sorts with the US, over everything from trade to the ongoing pandemic.

Given all that, it is tempting to see the Artemis Accords as a far-fetched folly. It makes little sense to draw up maps of the Moon when NASA can’t even get astronauts into orbit without Russian ships or engines, or when the US economy has collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant response measures.

Assuming they are real, however, the Artemis Accords may reflect Washington’s long game when it comes to space. And that is starting to look a lot like someone in the current administration is a massive fan of the science fiction TV show The Expanse. Or, to pick a more down-to-earth analogy, the late 19th century colonial scramble for Africa that killed millions and almost triggered the First World War on three occasions.

Either way, the man who got elected by denouncing the war on Iraq may set us all on a path to war for the Moon. Wouldn’t that be a ‘stellar’ legacy?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.