The UN Security Council rejects Russia’s bid to ban weapons in space

The U.S. and its allies said the language the 15-member council debated Monday was simply intended to distract the world from Russia’s true intent: weaponizing space.

The UN Security Council voted on space weapons in April. Photo: UN via Xinhua

“The culmination of Russia’s campaign of diplomatic gaslighting and hypocrisy is the text before us today,” US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood told the council.

He also accused Russia on Thursday of launching a satellite into low Earth orbit that the US believes is “likely a counterspace weapon likely capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit.”

“Russia has deployed this new weapon into space in the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite,” Wood said, adding that the May 16 launch followed Russian satellite launches “likely to target systems in space in low orbit.” earth” in 2019 and 2022.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied that his country was trying to mislead the world. Backed by China and others, he called the vote “a unique moment of truth for our Western colleagues.”

“If they fail to support this, they will clearly demonstrate that their main priority remains keeping the path clear for themselves to accelerate the militarization of space,” Nebenzia said.

Every country says it wants to ban weapons from space, and council members reiterated that Monday. But when it came time to vote, the council split evenly 7-7 between US and Russian proponents, with Switzerland abstaining.

Washington has accused Moscow of developing an anti-satellite nuclear weapon that could be deployed in space, a claim Russia has denied. File photo: Shutterstock

The measure failed under UN rules because nine votes were not in favor.

“We have a negative, bickering attitude among leading space powers who seem more interested in scoring points from their opponents than engaging in constructive dialogue,” said Paul Meyer, Canada’s former ambassador for disarmament and a fellow at the Vancouver-based Outer Space Institute. .

Even before humans left Earth, the world’s most powerful countries worried about their enemies using space to attack them.

The Soviet Union and the United States sent people into space in 1961. Six years later, the Soviets, the US and the UK signed a treaty declaring space travel a global commons that could only be used for peaceful purposes.

Although countries could not wage war without the space-based communications, reconnaissance and weather tools that satellites and spacecraft provide, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty requires them to keep their weapons on Earth.

“You realize what an important conflict prevention measure it was,” Meyer said.

It has become even more important, he said, as a growing number of countries have ventured into space. About a dozen have the capacity to launch spacecraft, and about 80 have their own satellites, not to mention private companies with assets in orbit.

All that could be jeopardized if a conflict in space causes an explosion and shrapnel, which could take out the vital systems on which millions of people around the world depend.

“Many people have an interest in being able to operate safely in space,” says Meyer.

The US has collected highly sensitive intelligence about Russian anti-satellite weapons shared with the government’s upper echelons, four people briefed on the intelligence said in February.

The people, who were not authorized to comment publicly, said the capability was not yet operational.

Additional reporting by Reuters