Outrage grows over Russian missile test hitting satellite

The test of Russia’s missiles that hit a missing space satellite has US officials and lawmakers baffled by fears that Moscow seeks to further militarize space, with calls to hold the Kremlin accountable.

The satellite explosion created at least 1,500 pieces of traceable space debris and hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces, which officials say could threaten astronauts and other satellites. It also comes on the heels of an aggressive Russian military rally near its border with Ukraine.

Russia confirmed on Tuesday that it was behind the test, but dismissed US concerns, prompting lawmakers to ask the Biden administration and its allies to act.

“The anti-satellite test carried out yesterday by the Russian army makes it clear that Moscow is ready to threaten the peaceful use of outer space, further militarize this domain and ignore the consequences for all nations,” said the chairman of the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives. Adam smithDavid (Adam) Adam Smith Congress moves toward end-of-the-year chaos Time to review the antiquated and unbalanced military justice system Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: a three-pronged approach MORE (D-Wash.) Said in a statement Tuesday.

“The American people deserve a responsible assessment and response to this event, and we must hold Russia accountable with the support of our allies and partners,” Smith added.

US officials and lawmakers are concerned that the ground-launched missile, which struck a Soviet satellite sent in 1982, is indicative of intensified efforts by Russia to develop and test space weapons and systems.

In recent years, the Kremlin has sought to outperform the US in the highly contested space domain, often known as the new “Wild West,” testing various anti-satellite weapons, lasers, and other weaponry that could impede effective use. of Americans and allies. satellites.

In a report published earlier this year, the Safe World Foundation, a nonprofit organization, assessed that Russia is “highly motivated to continue development efforts” in its anti-satellite weapons program.

Those efforts came to the fore in July 2020, when the US Space Command accused Russia of conducting a “non-destructive test of an anti-space satellite weapon.”

General John Raymond, head of Space Command, said at the time that the test was “further proof of Russia’s continued efforts to develop and test space systems” and an “example that threats to US and allied space systems are real”. , serious and growing “.

Monday’s test fueled those fears, and State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that Russia’s “dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of our outer space.”

Pentagon Spokesperson John kirbyJohn KirbyOvernight Defense & National Security – Presented by Boeing – Senators to accept defense bill on Wednesday The Pentagon accuses Iran of ‘unsafe’ conduct after it approached the US warship Russia dismisses US concerns about space debris after weapons test MOREMeanwhile, he said on Monday that the United States is closely watching Russia’s capabilities as they could “pose a threat not only to our national security interests, but also to the security interests of other nations navigating space.” .

Criticism also came from across the Atlantic, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling the test a “reckless act” that could threaten the International Space Station, built primarily by NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos. .

While the United States and its allies have condemned the missile test, it is unclear what else they can do to respond to the move. There are no universal norms, rules, or principles of responsible behavior related to threats from nation states to the space systems of others.

Russia earlier this month opposed a United Nations resolution that would move to establish such guidelines. The measure, which would establish a working group to make recommendations, was approved by the UN First Commission in a vote of 163 to 8, but rejected by Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. .

Russia’s Defense Ministry in a statement Tuesday defended its military moves, stating that it was developing its defense capabilities due to the establishment of the US Space Force last year and Washington’s own weapons tests. The United States last conducted a major anti-satellite missile test in 2008, albeit at a much lower altitude than Moscow.

Still, lawmakers want to see some action, and fast, with the Senate as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe An independent commission should review our National Defense Strategy It’s time to review China’s outdated and unbalanced military justice system sparks growing fears in the US military MORE (R-Okla.) Demanding that the Biden administration “make it clear [Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden-Xi summit: Meaningless talk can lead to war China’s move on Taiwan is all but inevitable unless Biden stops it Senior-level engagement with Russia is good — if it’s realistic MORE], in no uncertain terms, that this is unacceptable. “

The chief State Department spokesman said Washington will work with allies and partners to respond, but as of Tuesday it was unknown whether the administration had already reached out to other countries on the issue.

When asked what options the United States has, Price said he did not want to “get ahead of where we are” and did not want to “telegraph specific measures.”

When asked if the agency had contacted Russia or other countries, a State Department spokesperson told The Hill that, as a general rule, “we do not comment on private diplomatic conversations or correspondence.”

Kirby also said Tuesday that he had “no communications to discuss and no additional context to offer” regarding the Russian test.


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