Russia Vetoes US-Authored UN Resolution Banning Nuclear Weapons In Space

Russia has just vetoed a very rare and interesting resolution set before the United Nations Security Council focused on banning nuclear weapons in space:

The treaty bars signatories, including the U.S. and Russia, from placing “in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” or anywhere else in outer space.

On Wednesday Russia registered the lone veto which shot down the draft resolution aimed ultimately at preventing a future nuclear arms race in outer space.

Illustration via bne IntelliNews

China was the only abstention while the US was among the 13 UNSC members that voted in favor. It had been drafted and brought forward by the US and Japan.

In February the US government alleged that Russia was preparing to deploy a ‘space weapon’ which might be nuclear, which subsequently set off a frenzy of media speculation. 

Reuters  had reported at the time, “The space-based weapon U.S. 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.”

The Kremlin has blasted what it characterized as a “malicious fabrication”. It claimed US officials were seeking to distract the public and ram through more foreign aid and defense spending in Congress.

The US press release summarizing Wednesday’s failed resolution included the following description:

The detonation of a nuclear weapon in space would destroy satellites that are vital to communications, agriculture, national security, and more worldwide, with grave implications for sustainable development, and other aspects of international peace and security. The diverse group of cosponsors of this resolution reflects the strong shared interest in avoiding such an outcome.

Additionally National Security Council spokesman John Kirby warned that in the absence of any international prohibition or treaty, nukes in space could cause “physical destruction” on Earth.

US Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield after Moscow’s no vote lashed out at Russia’s ambassador: “Today’s veto begs the question: why? Why, if you are following the rules, would you not support a resolution that reaffirms them? What could you possibly be hiding,” she said.

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