White House Confirms Russia Developing New Anti-Satellite Capability
White House Confirms Russia Developing New Anti-Satellite Capability

By Andrew Thornebrooke

Russia is developing a new anti-satellite capability that could directly threaten the most critical U.S. civil and military infrastructure, the White House confirmed on Feb. 15.

The admission comes after House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) demanded that the Biden administration declassify information regarding a “serious national security threat.”

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that the threat stemmed from Russia’s pursuit of a new anti-satellite capability but that there was no immediate threat to the American public.

“I can confirm that it is related to an anti-satellite capability that Russia is developing,” Mr. Kirby told reporters on Feb. 15.

“This is not an active capability that’s been deployed. … There is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety.”

He noted that he did not believe that declassifying all related intelligence was appropriate and that doing so without first scrubbing that intelligence of some information could risk the “sources and methods” used to obtain the intelligence in the first place.

“The intelligence community has serious concerns about a broad declassification of this intelligence,” 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. We’re not going to be knocked off that process regardless of what in this particular case has found its way into the public domain.”

Russia’s development of anti-satellite weapons goes back decades; to date, Moscow boasts the world’s most advanced array of such capabilities.

Much of the world’s vital technologies, including GPS and missile warning systems, require satellites to operate, and experts have long warned that both China and Russia are seeking to usurp the United States’s strategic advantage by disrupting space-based infrastructure.

Russia is currently prohibited from deploying weapons of mass destruction into space by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. It is possible that Russia could voluntarily leave the treaty in the coming years, however, as it has done with numerous other Cold War-era arms agreements.

Moscow has openly suggested that it may consider American commercial satellites assisting Ukraine to be legitimate targets for military strikes.

Mr. Kirby said the development of the capability “goes back many, many months, if not a few years,” but the system is not a weapon intended to be used against people on the ground.

“We’re not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction,” he said. “That said, we’ve been monitoring this situation actively, and we will continue to take it very seriously.”

Mr. Kirby did not clarify if the capability was a nuclear-capable weapon, as was previously reported by some media outlets.

President Joe Biden has ordered additional congressional briefings on the new Russian capability and is organizing direct diplomatic engagements with Russia to de-escalate the situation, he said.

“We’re taking this potential threat very, very seriously. And we are examining what the best next steps are and what our options might be,” Mr. Kirby said.

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