U.S. officials are deeply concerned about Russia’s launch of a satellite that they believe could be weaponized, according to Australia's News.com.au.
Why is it concerning?
Based on the satellite’s movements, it could be an anti-satellite weapon, according to State Department assistant secretary Yleem Poblete. That means it could be knock out other satellites used for critical services such as cellphones, the internet, television and GPS.
“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” Poblete said Tuesday, News.com.au reported. “But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development — particularly, when considered in concert with statements by Russia’s Space Force Commander.”
“In October of last year, the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a ‘space apparatus inspector,’" Poblete said, according to the outlet. "But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities."
Poblete made the comments during the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Switzerland, which is discussing a new treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in March announced “six new major offensive weapons systems,” including the Peresvet military mobile laser system, Poblete said.
“To the United States this is yet further proof that the Russian actions do not match their words,” she said.
The Pentagon is also concerned. It stated earlier this month: “Space is integral to the U.S. way of life, our national security and modern warfare. Although U.S. space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of potential adversaries, those potential adversaries are now actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis."
How did Russia respond?
Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities “is disturbing given the recent pattern of Russian malign behavior,” Poblete said. She also said Russia’s proposed treaty prohibits the testing or stockpiling of anti-satellite weapons capabilities.
A Russian delegate at the conference said Poblete’s remarks are unfounded and slanderous.
The comments are based on “the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on,” Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat in Geneva, told Reuters News.
He pointed out that U.S. has not proposed amendments to a draft treaty with Russia and China that would ban arms in space.
“We are seeing that the American side are raising their serious concerns about Russia, so you would think they ought to be the first to support the Russian initiative. They should be active in working to develop a treaty that would 100 percent satisfy the security interests of the American people,” Deyneko said. "But they have not made this constructive contribution."