Russia has obtained a troubling emerging anti-satellite weapon, White House says

15 February 2024, 21:24

Biden
Biden. Picture: PA

Officials said that the weapon cannot directly cause ‘physical destruction’ on Earth.

The White House publicly confirmed on Thursday that Russia has obtained a “troubling” emerging anti-satellite weapon but said it cannot directly cause “physical destruction” on Earth.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said US intelligence officials have information that Russia has obtained the capability but that such a weapon is not currently operational.

US officials are analysing the information they have on the emerging technology and have consulted with allies and partners on the matter.

Biden
John Kirby described the capability of the weapon as ‘troubling’ though added that there is no threat to anyone’s immediate safety (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Mr Kirby said: “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.

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

The White House confirmed its intelligence after a vague warning Wednesday from the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he called a serious national security threat.

Mr Kirby said that the process of reviewing and declassifying information about the Russian capability was underway when Ohio Representative Mike Turner “regrettably” released his statement.

“We have been very careful and deliberate about what we decide to declassify downgrade and share with the public,” he added.

Russia has downplayed the US concern about the capability.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described the claims about a new Russian military capability as a ruse intended to make the US Congress support aid for Ukraine.

He said: “It’s obvious that Washington is trying to force Congress to vote on the aid bill by hook or by crook.

“Let’s see what ruse the White House will use.”

The capability is space-based and would violate an international space treaty, to which more than 130 countries have signed, including Russia.

Biden
White House national security communications adviser John Kirby declined to comment on whether the weapon is nuclear capable (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Mr Kirby declined to comment on whether the weapon is nuclear capable. The treaty prohibits the deployment of “nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” in orbit or “station weapons in outer space in any other manner”.

The White House said it would look to engage the Russians directly on the concerns.

Even as the White House sought to assure Americans, Mr Kirby acknowledged it was a serious matter.

“I don’t want to minimise the potential here for disruption,” he said.

The White House did not hide its frustration with how Mr Turner went about sharing concerns about the threat.

Mr Kirby said: “We make decisions about how and when to publicly disclose intelligence in a careful deliberate and strategic way, in a way that we choose.”

White House officials said US intelligence officials have concerns about a broad declassification of the intelligence.

United States Russia
The White House did not hide its frustration with how Mike Turner ent about sharing concerns about the threat (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The US has been aware of Russia’s pursuit of anti-satellite capability going back at least months, if not a few years.

It has frequently downgraded and unveiled intelligence findings about Moscow’s plans and operations over the course of its nearly two-year war with Ukraine.

Such efforts have been focused on highlighting plans for Russian misinformation operations or to throw attention on Moscow’s difficulties in prosecuting its war against Ukraine as well as its co-ordination with Iran and North Korea to supply it with badly-needed weaponry.

Mr Kirby said that intelligence officials assessed that starting with private engagement on the Russian anti-satellite threat could have been a more effective approach.

By Press Association

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