Un Adopts Russian Initiative Restricting Space Weapons

space defence

MOSCOW — The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a Russian-led resolution calling for a non-binding restriction against the first placement of weapons in outer space, a measure that has been strongly criticized by the US for not going far enough.

Russia has been promoting the resolution for several years, but failed to push the draft through a UN committee focusing on disarmament issues. The US has been at the forefront of the effort against the Russian resolution, which is backed by Moscow-friendly nations like China and Syria.

“It is noteworthy that the only government objecting to the substance of our initiative is the United States, which for many years has stood in almost complete isolation trying to block successive efforts of the international community to prevent an arms race in outer space,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday.

Known as the “no first placement initiative,” the resolution calls on states to refrain from being the first to deploy weapons into outer space, thereby preventing an arms race that could have devastating consequences. Russia, China and the US are all working on space weapons.

The initiative passed the General Assembly with 129 nations voting in favor. The US, Ukraine and Georgia voted against the measure — as the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out in its statement — while the states of the European Union chose to abstain.

The voting pattern resembled the results of last month’s meeting of the General Assembly’s First Committee, which deals with disarmament issues, where the US came out swinging against Russia’s latest attempt to push the draft resolution to the floor.

US delegate Robert Wood explained before the committee’s vote last month that “the United States finds that Russia’s NFP initiative contains a number of significant problems,” specifically, that it does not adequately define space weapons.

“As a result, [nations] will not have any mutual understanding of the operative terminology,” leaving the non-binding resolution difficult to enforce, or for compliance with the agreed-upon measures to be verified.

But more important, in the US view, is that Russia’s initiative has overlooked an entire class of ground-based space weapons — for example, anti-satellite missiles of the type that have been tested by China and the US.

Wood explained that this oversight undermines the resolution’s intent to prevent a space arms race or to prevent conventional war from spilling into the high frontier: States at war could, for example, shoot down satellites to deny their opponents vital intelligence and communications assets.

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