June 21. 2024. 4:00

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Russia fails in rival UN bid on nuclear, other weapons in space


A Russian-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution that called on all countries to prevent “for all time” the placement, threat or use of any weapons in outer space failed on Monday (20 May) with the 15-member body split over the move.

The draft failed to get the minimum nine votes needed: seven members voted in favor and seven against, while one abstained. A veto can only be cast by the United States, Russia, China, Britain or France if a draft gets at least nine votes.

Russia put forward the text after it vetoed a US-drafted resolution last month that called on countries to prevent an arms race in outer space. The Russian veto prompted the United States to question whether Moscow was hiding something.

US, Russia set for a showdown at UN over nuclear weapons in space

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, which is due to vote on a US-drafted resolution calling on countries to prevent an arms race in outer space.

“We are here today because Russia seeks to distract global attention from its development of a new satellite carrying a nuclear device,” deputy US Ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council before the vote.

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

“Russia deployed this new counterspace weapon into the same orbit as a US government satellite,” said Wood, adding that the 16 May launch followed Russian satellite launches “likely of counterspace systems to low Earth orbit” in 2019 and 2022.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded: “I didn’t even fully understand what he was talking about.”

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty already bars signatories – including Russia and the United States – from placing “in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”

Washington has accused Moscow of developing an anti-satellite nuclear weapon to put in space, an allegation that Russia has denied. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow was against putting nuclear weapons in space.

Nebenzia said the Russian draft resolution covered both weapons of mass destruction and all forms of other weapons and was aimed at stopping an arms race in outer space.

But, when pressed by Nebenzia, Wood took issue with language in the draft seeking “a lengthy binding mechanism that cannot be verified,” saying, “I’ve seen this movie before.”

The Russian draft had language echoing a 2008 proposal by Moscow and Beijing for a treaty banning “any weapons in outer space” and threats “or use of force against outer space objects,” but the diplomatic effort did not find international support.

Russia seen as highly unlikely to put a nuclear warhead in space

The space-based weapon US intelligence believes Russia may be developing is more likely a nuclear-powered device to blind, jam or fry the electronics inside satellites than an explosive nuclear warhead to shoot them down, analysts said on Thursday (15 February).

Read more with Euractiv

Poland arrests nine on charges of Russian-ordered sabotage

Poland arrests nine on charges of Russian-ordered sabotage

Poland has arrested nine people in connection with acts of sabotage committed in the country on the orders of Russian services, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said late on Monday (20 May).