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Hegemonic stability theory and the evolution of the space weaponization regime during the cold war Gillard, Matthew


This study analyzes whether hegemonic stability theory can explain the evolution of the principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures of the outer space weaponization regime during the Cold War. The thesis begins by defining the term "space weapon." After outlining which weapons are included in this definition, the author argues that there are relative and absolute power variants of hegemonic stability theory. As a security issue, space weaponization is best examined using the relative power strand. For the relative power strand to provide an adequate explanation of the evolution of the space weaponization regime, the regime must be established and remain strong in the presence of a hegemon with increasing relative power. The regime should also weaken when the hegemon’s relative power is decreasing. Relative power is measured through analyzing changes in annual military spending and GDP. Given that the time period under study is the Cold War era, data for the US (the hegemon) and the Soviet Union (the challenger) is examined. British, Chinese, French, German, and Japanese power is also discussed to explain why the thesis focuses primarily on American and Soviet power. Beginning in 1955, the US began a campaign to establish a legal regime that would protect satellite overflight. This would ensure that US reconnaissance satellites could collect intelligence on the Soviet Union. In 1963, the Soviet Union dropped major opposition to satellite reconnaissance, marking the beginning of the space weaponization regime. From 1963- 1972, several international agreements expanded the regime. However, US power steadily declined vis-a-vis the Soviet Union as the space weaponization regime expanded. Hegemonic stability theory thus cannot explain the formation and growth of the space weaponization regime. From 1972 until the end of the Cold War, the space weaponization regime stagnated, neither expanding nor declining. Reagan helped prevent the expansion of the space weaponization regime by refusing to continue antisatellite (ASAT) talks with the Soviet Union. He also attempted to remove an important portion of the space weaponization regime related to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty but ultimately failed. Both of these events cannot be explained by hegemonic stability theory.

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