UN Security Council rejects Russia’s space weapons resolution

The United Nations Security Council rejected a Russian-backed resolution that called to prevent the deployment of weapons in space after the U.S., France and the U.K. all voted against the measure.

The final vote was 7-7 with one abstention. In favor of the measure were Algeria, China, Ecuador, Guyana, Mozambique, Russia, and Sierra Leone.

Against the resolution were France, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, the U.K., and the U.S., with Switzerland abstaining. The U.S., the U.K. and France are permanent members and have veto power.

The Monday vote came after Russia vetoed a resolution last month that called to reaffirm a commitment to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which calls to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons in outer space, a renewed fear after the U.S. accused Moscow of preparing to potentially put such a weapon in space.

Russia said it had vetoed that measure because it wanted to prohibit all weapons from being deployed in space. Following the vote last month, Russia quickly offered an alternative resolution that called to prevent the deployment of any kind of weapon in space and for countries to take steps toward a legally binding agreement to limit arms above Earth.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood, the alternate representative for special political affairs at the U.N., said Russia “has sought to distract from its dangerous efforts to put a nuclear weapon into orbit.”

“The culmination of Russia’s campaign of diplomatic gaslighting and dissembling is the text before us today,” Wood said before the vote. “Russia’s resolution does not achieve the simple task that we set out to achieve several months ago: reaffirm the basic obligations of the Outer Space Treaty and avoid a nuclear arms race in space.”

Wood also accused Russia of launching a satellite May 16 into low Earth orbit, which he said is “likely a counterspace weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low Earth orbit.”

“Russia deployed this new counterspace weapon into the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite,” Wood said.

The U.S. in February first accused Russia of preparing to potentially deploy a nuclear weapon in space, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied his country has such aims.

Russia’s U.N. representative, Vasily Nebenzya, on Monday accused the U.S. of being hypocritical by vetoing his measure, which he claimed was “identical” to the April measured backed by Washington.

“We are now proposing a resolution which encompasses both [weapons of mass destruction] and all forms of other weapons in outer space,” he said. “We are talking about preventing an arms race in outer space.”

Japan’s U.N. representative Yamazaki Kazuyuki, whose country helped draft the April resolution along with the U.S., said he voted against the measure on Monday in part over concerns about the resolution’s effectiveness.

“Significant challenges remain in defining and verifying a weapon in outer space,” he said. “In order to address security challenges in outer space, it is crucial to focus on how certain objects or capabilities are applied and used.”

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