Dubious claim about GLONASS-BeiDou ‘merger’

April 3, 2018  - By

On April 1 — there’s a telling date for you — the Russian news outlet RT published a story headlined, “Russia and China to merge satellite tracking systems into one global navigation giant.”

“If successful,” the story elaborated, “the project will divide the entire world into two zones of influence by two united systems: GLONASS-BeiDou and GPS-Galileo, operated by the U.S. and the European Union.”

Intriguing. Mind-boggling. With some initial smattering of verisimilitude.

I don’t want to say, “Yet in the end, spurious.” Because we haven’t yet reached the end. But indicators point in that direction.

What. The story claimed that “The countries will reportedly negotiate the merger in May at the International Conference on Advanced Technologies in Manufacturing and Materials Engineering in the Chinese city of Harbin, Izvestia daily reports.”

The primary reason for all GNSS and for GPS itself in the very beginning is military advantage. For these two superpowers in particular to share one military resource is unthinkable; for either to disclose aspects of its security and weapons guidance operations to the other, untenable.

Whence. Who is RT? According to Wikipedia, the outfit formerly known as Russia Today is an international television network funded by the Russian government, operating cable and satellite television channels and internet content directed to audiences outside of Russia. Based in Moscow, it presents around-the-clock news providing “a Russian viewpoint on major global events.” In 2008, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin included RT’s parent organization on a list of core organizations of strategic importance to Russia.

RT has been frequently described as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government and its foreign policy, and has been accused of spreading disinformation, broadcasting “materially misleading” content. In 2017, during the French presidential election, a spokesperson for successful candidate Emmanuel Macron said that both RT and the Sputnik news agency showed a “systematic desire to issue fake news and false information,” and banned them from campaign events.

Why. No one to whom I reached out in either Russian or Chinese government or satnav operations agency has returned any comment. Silence on all fronts.

We can only guess at the underlying reasons for this floated, unsubstantiated story. To stir things up, as has been done in other arenas by these same “news” actors. It’s just a bit stinging, and a bit scary, to find it in our own world of science and technology.

There is no evidence that any GLONASS officials have been in any way involved — there’s no evidence of anything at all, when you come right down to it.  The development does not reflect favorably on the Russian news system, and it may be as well to take everything from Moscow with a barrel of salt until something more tangible emerges.

A GLONASS-M satellite is prepped for launched in February 2016. (Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense)

A GLONASS-M satellite is prepped for launched in February 2016. (Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense)

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About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.