US and Russia to Clash at UN Over Nuclear Weapons in Space

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.24 - 2024 8:51 AM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The United States and Russia are set to face off over nuclear weapons in space on Wednesday (24 April) at the United Nations Security Council.

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The United States and Russia will confront each other over nuclear weapons in space at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, April 24. The Council is set to vote on a U.S.-drafted resolution urging countries to prevent an arms race in outer space, as reported by Euractive.

US Resolution and Russia's Opposition

The U.S. resolution calls on countries to adhere to the Outer Space Treaty and actively work toward the peaceful use of outer space, as well as to prevent an arms race in space.

This draft text reaffirms the obligations under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits signatories, including Russia and the United States, from placing nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in Earth's orbit.

Russia, on the other hand, is expected to block the resolution, leading to a potential veto showdown. This resistance comes after the U.S. accused Moscow of developing an anti-satellite nuclear weapon, an allegation Russia's defense minister has denied.

Russia's Proposed Amendment

In response to the U.S. draft, Russia and China intend to propose an amendment that echoes a 2008 proposal for a treaty banning "any weapons in outer space" and prohibiting threats or the use of force against outer space objects. Both the U.S. resolution and the Russian-Chinese amendment require at least nine votes in favor without any vetoes from the Security Council's permanent members to be adopted.

Deputy Russian UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy criticized the U.S. resolution, stating that it would be "unbalanced, harmful, and politicized" and could undermine the Outer Space Treaty.

He argued that issues related to space should be addressed by the full membership of states party to the treaty, not just by Security Council members.

Concerns Over Nuclear Weapons in Space

U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia is developing a space-based nuclear weapon capable of producing electromagnetic radiation that could disable satellites if detonated. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated that Russia has not yet deployed such a weapon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked in February that Russia opposes the deployment of nuclear weapons in space.

Governments have increasingly viewed satellites in Earth's orbit as important assets that enable various military capabilities on Earth, with space-based communications and satellite-connected drones in the war in Ukraine serving as recent examples of the significant role space plays in modern warfare.

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