In the gap between the two worlds: where to look for a vector of regional cooperation for Ukraine

Anna Gurova, space law expert, PhD in Law

About 15 years ago, during the heyday of the Ukrainian space industry, as evidenced by events such as the flight of the first Ukrainian astronaut, the launch of Sich satellites, the development of projects “Sea Launch”, “Ground Launch”,  and later “Alcantara“, our country’s politics, — including politics concerning space, — was guided by the idea of ​​multi-vector approach, which, despite its large-scale name, was reduced to a balance between cooperation with the United States and the Russian Federation.

Currently, conditions have changed significantly: first, the distribution of space forces (the United States and China are the most powerful space powers, the European Space Agency (ESA) is an international space organization); secondly, forms of cooperation (due to the involvement of almost every country in the world in the space division of labor, the implementation of such large-scale tasks as environmental monitoring, situational awareness in space, possible only through regional cooperation); thirdly, the criteria for the effectiveness of space activities (low cost, reliability, environmental friendliness are provided in market conditions of competition, of mainly private enterprises).

Geopolitically, the world is currently divided into five regional communities for cooperation in space: in Europe — ESA (22 members); Asia-Pacific — Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization APSCO (11 members); Africa — African Space Agency of the African Union (55 members); in the Middle East and North Africa — the Inter-Islamic Space Science and Technology Network (ISNET) within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (57 participants); in Latin America — the formation of a space agency continues (Mexico joined Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay and Costa Rica on July 24, 2021). Special mention should be made of the United States, which formulates its policy of cooperation with each of the states depending on the directions of space activities. Where is Ukraine among this lace?

Regionally, Africa and Latin America disappear at once. On cultural grounds, we do not fit into the Islamic Guild of Space Conquerors, which, however, does not prevent the deepening of diplomatic work to develop cooperation with specific public or private partners. Clearly in terms of geographical parameters, Ukraine does not fit very well in the Asia-Pacific region, and therefore, in accordance with Part 7 of Art. 9 of the APSCO Convention, it can apply for associate membership without the right to vote on the distribution of funds for the formation and development of regional space projects. However, the above does not preclude involvement in some of them, which stems from stronger trade ties with representatives of the region, such as Turkey and China. For example, on August 7-8, 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the State Space Agency of Ukraine and the Turkish Space Agency on cooperation in space exploration and use for peaceful purposes, and the Ukrainian-Chinese Subcommittee on Space Cooperation, adopted the Program of Space Cooperation for 2021-2025, which includes more than 70 issues, including the development of components of launch vehicles and spacecraft, spacecraft control systems, remote probing of the Earth and its application, satellite navigation, lunar exploration.

With regard to the European or American direction, perhaps only those who are not of this worldI have not heard that the Framework Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the Government of the United States on cooperation in space exploration and use for peaceful purposes expired on January 22, 2019, as well as the Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the European Space Agency for cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (February 25, 2019), and no other legal basis or programs for cooperation in space, which creates a deep gap between the goals of access to space with the international partnership of our long-suffering project target scientific and technical space program of Ukraine for 2021-2025 and a real basis for access to space services. Weak, asymmetric in terms of division of rights and responsibilities, and in some ways purely declarative agreements with the EU (Agreement between the State Space Agency of Ukraine and the European Commission on cooperation in access to data and data use of Sentinel satellites of the Copernicus program) and the United States (cooperation in civilian research and the use of the Moon, Mars, comets and asteroids for peaceful purposes — Artemis Arrangements) cannot guarantee sufficient level of cooperation for this purpose.

The need for a strategic focus on European regional space cooperation is obvious, but the European side has demonstrated its clear position on the level of interest in the intensity of cooperation with Ukraine in two points: 1) the head of the European Space Agency Jean-Jacques Dordain noted that the Agreement of the “European country cooperating with ESA” is specially adapted for those states that are members of the EU but are not yet members of ESA, and therefore is not an acceptable solution for Ukraine; 2) at the suggestion of the Agency, an agreement was reached on the need to focus on identifying one or more specific joint projects between ESA and the SCA in order to gain experience of cooperation and demonstrate to the European community a positive example of such cooperation. Thus, at the moment it is no more than proving the ability to be a reliable partner in several projects, and the prospect of hoping to deepen cooperation depends on this.

Finally, it should be noted that each state builds its space policy in accordance with economic and technological perspectives, historical partnerships and other features, which creates a field for empowerment through multi-vector. Given its regional affiliation and European choice, Ukraine must pursue a consistent policy of deepening cooperation with the European Space Agency, which will give impetus to the diversification of cooperation with other countries.

If we consider space diplomacy and international lawmaking using a psychological approach, it becomes clear that an honest awareness of the domestic space industry in the abyss of international cooperation in contrast to the illusory declarations engraved in the program documents, according to Arnold Beiser’s theory of paradoxical change, will be an impetus for positive change.

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