Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Commentary

Ukraine delivers killing blow to Russian space operations

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Recent Ukrainian counterattacks have targeted Russian air defense systems in anticipation of Ukraine receiving F-16 fighter jets later this summer. These attacks have also hit military, naval, logistics hubs and communications centers, most recently the NIP-16 Space Tracking and Deep Space Communications Center.

Watch the above video as Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan argues that this strike effectively marks the end of Russian operations in outer space.


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The following is an excerpt from Peter’s June 25 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Last week, I talked about how Ukraine has been targeting Russian air infrastructure to prepare for the arrival of their F-16s. Well, Ukraine launched a rocket attack on occupied Crimea and destroyed some air defenses and one of Russia’s deep space satellite communication stations.

The loss of that deep space satellite communication station is the focus for today. This isn’t great news for Russia’s already struggling civilian space program, given they’ve depleted their old ICBMs used for satellite launches. This will also reduce tracking and communication with Russia’s military satellites, which complicates things for any other nations relying on Russia for maintenance or launches. The final kicker is that Russia’s GLONASS system — their version of GPS used in precision-guided munitions like glide bombs — could be jeopardized or degraded.

This attack could significantly impact Russian capabilities, but we’ll have to wait for final reports to determine the full extent of the damage and impacts.

[Peter Zeihan]

Hey everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. It’s the 24th of June. And as we’ve been discussing on and off for the last couple of weeks, the Ukrainians are hoping to take out as much of the Russian Air Defense Network as possible. Before they get to f-16 and Mirage fighter jets over the summer.

The idea is if they can establish local air superiority, even if just for an hour at a time, then ground forces can then advanced without fear of massive artillery barrages hitting them and that helps them clear out say minefields and actually penetrate into Russian lines. Anyway, over the weekend, we had a significant loss of the largest rocket attack I’ve seen yet from Ukraine into occupied Crimea. And while we’re going to be looking at the damage reports from this for several days to figure out how much was destroyed, looks like several air defense systems are taken out again.

But the one I want to talk about today is the Russian deep space satellite communications network, you use a deep space system to basically keep track of all your satellites in orbit and communicate among them into the ground. And since satellites typically are you know, you need several of these stations around the world in order to provide good coverage. Now, the Russians have never had that because the Russians have never had a series of allies that they can trust on a global basis. So they have four of these networks within the Russian Federation. And that’s it. And apparently one of them was completely destroyed within the last 36 hours.

This has three implications. Number one, it pretty much is the end of the Russian civilian space program, it was already floundering wasn’t economically viable, especially with the advent of SpaceX, because the Russians used to use their old ICBMs as launch vehicles, basically, you use one of them, and then it’s gone. And then use another one, you keep doing it until they’re all gone. And well, they’re all gone. Now, unless they actually want to go into their active reserve, they were using the ones that were decommissioned after the end of the Cold War. So they’re no longer cost effective at all. And now they can’t even keep track of things as they orbit the planet. Second, military satellites, most military satellites, most like most civilian satellites are whipping around the planet. And now the Russians have lost one quarter of what was left of their capacity to track and communicate with them, that’s going to provide a real problem for the Russians in terms of satellite communications, not to mention, anyone who is looking at getting the Russians to launch and maintain a military satellite for them now has to find someone who is not Russia to maintain it. And if your goal was to get away from the United States, there just aren’t a lot of options here. Because the Chinese don’t have a good network for this either. So basically, you’re down to Europe, with the Airbus consortium needs, or the United States. Third, and perhaps most significant moving forward is with the loss of this, the Russians are losing the ability to just keep tabs on their satellites, but to get good telemetry for things like repairs. And if the Russians lose the capacity to do that, then they’re Glasnost system, which is their equivalent of GPS starts to fall off line. Now, they’re already parts of the world that don’t have very good coverage all that often. But if you remove meaningful launch capability and monitoring capability and maintenance capability from the Russian system, you know, losing one more radar system would probably do that. Then you’re talking about the Russians losing the capacity to use precision guided munitions using geographic tags. That would be an end to things like say glide bombs, which are the newest military innovation that the Russians have used, basically dropping one to two to three ton bombs from within Russian territory, and then having them glide and hit targets. If you lose the ability for solid communication goes away too. So very significant outcome will still be tallying the damage from this weekend for several days. It’ll be interesting to see what else is now gone.

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