Mr. Chairman, in October of last year — as this body was deliberating on the Russia Federation’s resolution on “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” (or NFP) — the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a “space apparatus inspector.” But the spacecraft’s behavior was inconsistent with anything seen before, including other Russian satellite inspection activities.
The United States is concerned with what appears as very abnormal behavior by this so-called “space apparatus inspector.” We do not know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify its mission. Moreover, Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear. This a troubling development – particularly, when considered in concert with statements by Russia’s Space Troops Commander which highlighted that “assimilat[ing] new prototypes of weapons [into] Space Forces’ military units” is a “main task facing the Aerospace Forces Space Troops.”
It is also concerning in light of statements from senior Russian military officials that Russia’s Space Troops have taken delivery of a “combat laser system.” Further, Russia claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites. To the United States, these developments are yet further proof that Russian military actions do not match their diplomatic rhetoric.
Mr. Chairman, the drafters of the NFP resolution and the draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (or PPWT) are developing capabilities that are designed to attack satellites in space – the very thing that they claim to seek to prohibit.
All nations must take concrete steps to strengthen the safety, stability, and sustainability of space.
The draft PPWT and the NFP resolution are not the right mechanisms for achieving these goals. They are fundamentally flawed proposals advanced by a country that has routinely violated its international obligations. That is why the United States continues to urge countries not to support the façade of Russia’s Potemkin resolution and instead vote “No.”
Hollow and hypocritical efforts are not the answer. The United States continues to support the UN First Committee resolution on Transparency and Confidence Building Measures. Moreover, we have fora like the Disarmament Commission and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) where we can make real progress on these issues.
Mr. Chairman, while the United States would prefer that the space domain remain free of conflict, it will prepare to meet and overcome any challenges that arise. As Vice President Pence recently noted, “Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already. And the United States will not shrink from this challenge.”
Since the start of the Space Age six decades ago, the United States has led efforts in the United Nations to establish and uphold the principle that all nations have the right to explore and use space for peaceful purposes and to unfettered access and freedom to operate in space. Consistent with this principle, the United States believes that “peaceful purposes” allows for outer space to be used for national and homeland security activities.
The U.S. government is reinvigorating its leadership in space activities through the National Space Council, which is chaired by Vice President Pence. The Council’s open discussions of the U.S. National Space Strategy and Space Force — including a meeting today in Washington — highlight America’s commitment both to lead in outer space with clarity of intent and to cooperate with other nations based upon shared interests.
The U.S. National Space Strategy also seeks to foster conducive international environments through bilateral and multilateral engagements. As part of these efforts to strengthen stability in outer space, the United States will continue to pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to continuing to engage constructively and pragmatically with other UN Member States in order to strengthen the safety, the stability, and the sustainability of outer space activities. The draft PPWT and the NFP resolution are not the right mechanisms to achieve these shared goals.