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EDITORIAL | Russia Can't Hide Intent to Deploy Nuclear Weapons into Space

Russia blocks the United Nations Security Council resolution seeking to prohibit nuclear weapons in space. It is, in fact, developing and testing various space weapons.



Russian Ambassador to the UN is shown vetoing the Japan-US resolution banning nuclear weapons in space at the UN Security Council. April 24, 2024. (@Kyodo)

Recently 65 nations, including Japan and the United States, cosponsored a United Nations resolution for the denuclearization of space. It called on all countries to refrain from deploying nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in outer space. However, it was rejected in the United Nations Security Council. Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, exercised its veto to block the resolution. Meanwhile, China abstained. 

Russia and China are both building up their military capabilities in outer space. They are steadily turning space, which has no national borders, into a "new domain for operations."

Satellites operated by national governments and private companies in space collect military information. However, they also support civilian services related to weather, communications, agriculture, and so forth. 

Attacks on these satellites would wreak havoc on global security, the economy, and daily human lives. A nuclear attack on them would likely cause catastrophic damage. 

Russia's exercise of its veto was an irresponsible act that threatens the security of space and cannot be tolerated. 

Russian Ambassador to the UN is shown vetoing the Japan-US resolution banning nuclear weapons in space at the UN Security Council. April 24, 2024. (@Kyodo)

Irresponsible Russia

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's envoy to the UN, characterized the resolution as "unreasonable and political." He justified Russia's veto by declaring that the resolution did not go far enough and "ban all types of weapons from space." 

That was nothing but sophistry of the worst kind. 

In fact, the resolution, jointly sponsored by Japan and the US, also included a clause banning the development of weapons of mass destruction intended for deployment in Earth's orbit.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia has no intention of deploying nuclear weapons in space. However, senior US officials claim that Moscow is developing new satellites specifically designed to carry nuclear weapons. The US is therefore increasing its vigilance. 

All of the 15-member UN Security Council, with the exceptions of Russia and China, voted for the resolution. The US delegate quipped that China acted as a "junior partner" protecting "irresponsible Russia." 

China the Junior Partner in WMD

Both China and Russia have been developing and deploying "killer satellites" designed to use lasers or other means to destroy satellites belonging to other countries. 

China, for example, in 2007 tested a missile for destroying satellites. It resulted in a tremendous amount of space debris and considerable criticism within the global community. Russia conducted a similar test in 2021. 

Reacting to these moves by China and Russia in June 2023, the Japanese government adopted a "space security concept" based on its National Security Strategy. That amounted to an announcement of a policy of using space for defensive purposes. 

Japan and the US have already confirmed that they intend to increase cooperation in the domain of space. In order to maintain peace and security in space, nations should join together to urgently improve their deterrence capabilities.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun