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Russia developing anti-satellite capability, US says

February 15, 2024

White House officials say the capability is concerning but has not been deployed yet. The statement came after a vague warning from the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks at the White House
The White House said intelligence officials have information on Russian anti-satellite weaponsImage: Ken Cedeno/UPI/newscom/picture alliance

Russia is believed to be developing an anti-satellite weapon, the White House said on Thursday.

US intelligence officials have information that Russia has obtained the capability but added that such a weapon is not currently operational.

"First this is not an active capability that's been deployed and though Russia's pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone's safety," White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

"We're not talking about a weapon that can be used to used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth.''

Kirby said US President Joe Biden has directed a series of initial actions in response to the intelligence, including direct diplomatic engagement with the Kremlin.

How do anti-satellite weapons work?

Almudena Azcarate Ortega, who specializes in space security at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, said that counterspace weapons do not inflict physical damage but instead disrupt vital satellite communications

"It would be a non-kinetic type of capability, so like a jammer, which would generate a noise on the same radio frequency band as the space system or the ground station that's being targeted in order to block or interfere with the signal traveling from, in this case, space to Earth," she told DW.

"So in this sense, that is how it would be felt on Earth. It wouldn't be a direct source of damage."

"The damage that would be felt would be reverberating in nature because it could disrupt or it could interrupt the services that a specific satellite provides to Earth."

Space nukes: Phantom threat or cause for concern?

Kremlin dismisses claims as 'ruse'

The White House was moved to make the announcement on Thursday after the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he said was a serious threat to national security.

Kirby said that the declassification process was already underway when Turner "regrettably" released his statement the day before.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the American claims as a "ruse" to pressure Congress to approve more defense funding for Ukraine.

"It's obvious that Washington is trying to force Congress to vote on the aid bill by hook or by crook," Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

"Let's see what ruse the White House will use."

zc/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)