A new Russian satellite is part of Russia’s plans to weaponize space, a State Department official told an international conference on Tuesday.
Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that even as Russia promotes a treaty banning space weapons, it is trying to develop weapons of its own, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Poblete’s comments came one day after President Donald Trump said the United States will embark upon the creation of a Space Force to ensure “American dominance in space.”
The United States detected unusual activity from a Russian satellite in October, Poblete said.
“Its behavior on orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities. We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” she said.
“Now, I can tell you that our Russian colleagues will deny that its systems are meant to be hostile. The Russian Ministry of Defense has put out a press release stating these are simply inspector satellites,” she continued.
“So the question before this body is: How do we verify what countries say their spacecraft are doing? What would be enough information to prove what the purpose of an object is?” she said, according to The Washington Times.
Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat in Geneva, called Poblete’s speech “unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on,” Reuters reported.
He said if the United States is so concerned about space, it should support the idea of the treaty being advanced by Russia and China.
“We are seeing that the American side are raising their serious concerns about Russia, so you would think they ought to be the first to support the Russian initiative. They should be active in working to develop a treaty that would 100 percent satisfy the security interests of the American people,” he said.
In August 2017, Russia announced it launched a “small space apparatus” two months earlier to be used for “examining the condition of a Russian satellite.”
“In the longer term, a research experiment will be carried out to use the space apparatus for examining the outward appearance of that satellite,” the statement said, according to the Free Beacon. The statement also noted that the “apparatus” will be “a space platform capable of carrying different payloads.”
Mark Schneider, a past Pentagon policymaker, said Russia has been aggressively working to get into space.
“Supposed Russian opposition to weapons in space is hypocrisy,” he said. “The Russian air force has become the Aerospace Force.”
Schneider said Russia is ahead of the United States in some areas when it comes to space.
“Russia currently has a substantial advantage in heavy lift space-launch boosters which facilitates placing weapons in space. This is a very serious threat,” he said.
On Monday, Trump spoke about the need for a Space Force during an event at Fort Drum, N.Y., in which he signed a defense spending bill, according to a White House media pool report..
“In order to maintain America’s military supremacy, we must always be on the cutting edge. That is why we are also proudly re-asserting America’s legacy of leadership in space,” Trump said.
“Our foreign competitors and adversaries have already begun weaponizing space, developing new technologies to disrupt vital communications, blind satellites, and just — I mean, you look at what they’re doing. They’ve given me rundowns. I’ve seen things that you don’t even want to see, what they’re doing and how advanced they are. We’ll be catching them very shortly … We will be so far ahead of them in a very short period of time your head will spin,” Trump said.
“Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a warfighting domain. It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.